Ok, yesterday I ranted about an issue that’s taken Canada by storm. A prestigious Catholic University in Halifax made the news because over 400 students during frosh week, recited an offensive chant advocating the rape of minors. I won’t repeat it here as a simple Google search will reveal enough new articles that are only too happy to sensationalize it. However, as pissed off and disgusted as I was yesterday, I’m equally shocked at the number of people who are content to grab the pitch forks and vilify these young adults rather than come up with a rational, effective solution.
If the comments on news articles, blogs, and Facebook pages are anything to go by, the majority of my fellow Canadians want all of the 80 student leaders who encouraged and/or let this chant slide, to be expelled. The university administration has opted to bring in a bullying expert and sensitivity training for these misguided youths.
While I agree with the majority sentiment that sensitivity training isn’t nearly enough, I do not agree all these students should be expelled. There is so much potential for these young adults to learn something valuable, and knee jerk reactions never serve long-term goals.
But OK…let’s say they get expelled. What does that accomplish…really? If they get kicked out of SMU, they might have to wait a semester before getting accepted at another university, and then they can forget all about what they did, and nobody has deal with the underlying issues because it’s been “dealt with”.
Sorry, expulsion is the easy way out in my humble opinion.
Here’s an idea, why not put an academic black mark in their student file, do the sensitivity training, and then have those 80 “student leaders” earn that role by organizing a university wide charity drive (or similar) that benefits child protection and/or rape awareness organizations. Honestly, I think will be a lot harder to stay at SMU, face up to what they did by admitting they made a huge mistake, and then make amends by turning it into a positive learning experience that benefits an important cause. That would be something we all could be proud of, and something that might make these kids compassionate future leaders.
While I understand the outrage and outcry for appropriate action in this case, I also think people need to take a deep breath and think long and hard about what we really want to accomplish here. How can it be a good idea to make these kids feel worse than I hope they already do? Is forcing them to feel eternal guilt over a mistake (yes even a terrible one) a good idea? How does wishing someone to self-flagellate for the rest of his or her life, solve anything?
Guilt, remorse, and shame serve a very important purpose, yes. But those emotions are meant to show you where you need to change, not keep you in the past and full of self-loathing. People need to acknowledge mistakes and face up to them, yes. But, how can anyone learn, move forward, and contribute something meaningful to society from the lessons they’ve learned, if everyone around them expects them to crawl away in shame and never show their faces again? Sorry, but that’s an even worse transgression than the one these young people committed.
As one of the many middle-aged adults commenting on this issue, I’d hope my fellow opinionated commentators will take a long hard look at the message they’re sending, and what long-term goals they think they’re advocating by screaming the guilty be expelled and marked for life. If we mature adults want to have any credibility with the next generations, we need to lead by example with compassion and wisdom. These kids made a horrible mistake and their bad decision is a turning point for many of them, I have no doubt. What they need from their “elders” isn’t vilification, it’s guidance. I mean seriously people, if we can’t guide our youth, then who the hell can?