Second hazing incident at St. FX
Student says it was an "extremely active year"
St. Francis Xavier University is grappling with a second incident of hazing on campus, having settled the first one last week.
Students from MacPherson House residence are in appeals over a disciplinary ruling concerning an incident that occurred last fall. University officials have refused to reveal details of the incidents of hazing – which are banned at the university.
The incident at MacPherson House – the residence of former prime minister Brian Mulroney when he was a student -- is the second incident of hazing brought before the university disciplinary committee this year. In that incident, eight students from MacNeil House staged a hazing ceremony that allegedly involved beating freshmen with tree branches and smearing what appeared to be human feces on their faces.
Morgan Moffitt, a student who sits on the appeals committee, confirmed that the committee was dealing with a second incident – this time at MacPherson House. She would not comment on the status of this second case, but did say it was an “extremely active year” for hazing at the university.
The university’s vice-president of recruitment and student life also confirmed that a second incident was in the appeal stage.
However, he said hazing is not a problem on campus.
“I don’t think we have an enormous problem, but I do think some students come here thinking that this is the way in which they want to initiate their friends rather than orient them,” said Keith Publicover.
“This is very uncommon for us to have these kinds of things and the nature of these situations are very uncommon,” he added.
Reactions from St. FX students over the hazing events in October are mixed.
Students Chelsea Smith and Dan Hickey say this activity does not belong on their campus.
“No one should ever have to go through that . . . I remember how nervous I was my first year and I would never want to put someone through that,” Smith said.
"It’s pretty disturbing,” Hickey said, “especially for a close community like St. Francis Xavier to have something like that . . . there’s no place for that here or anywhere.”
A student who lives at MacPherson House sees it differently.
Ike Harris-Eze said the punishment the MacNeil House students received were too harsh. He said these events were not hazing, but orientation into the houses.
“No one was forced to do it. It was done with (the first-year students’) permission . . . And what the university is doing is turning a group-bonding session into a singling-out process,” Harris-Eze said.
The students from MacNeil House were kicked out of residence, fined $50, required to take bullying and harassment counselling, and barred from campus activities until Monday of this week.
“Maybe they should have got community service, but not kicked out of res,” Harris-Eze said.
The incident with MacPherson House was followed by the resignation of house president Tyler Cameron. In mid-November 2008, Cameron stepped down from his duties and moved out of the house.
According to an article in the university’s student newspaper, the Xaverian, conflicts between Cameron and other members of the house arose after accusations that he helped the university build a case against those students facing disciplinary action.
Cameron had his room broken into and even called security to stop people from harassing him outside his door.
At the time of his resignation, Cameron told the Xaverian he had “been treated in a way that [he] wouldn’t wish upon his own enemy.”
Two months later, Cameron has declined to make any further comment, saying, it was easier for him to not get involved.
The RCMP could not confirm or deny if there were any charges laid in relation to hazing on that day. They said there were too many alcohol-related charges on that day to go through all the details.
St. FX has a long history of hazing at its university.
In a 1947 edition of The Xavierian, then-president Patrick J. Nicholson acknowledged hazing was occurring, but stated that banning it at the university would simply incite students to take it off-campus.
“I still consider hazing intrinsically wrong; it is now a matter of tolerating a harmless amount of it to prevent greater evil,” he is quoted as saying.
The current code of conduct for students discourages students from involving themselves in hazing activities.
Article 22 states “every student that organizes, encourages, or participates in unapproved orientation or initiation/hazing on or off campus” can face punishment as severe as suspension or expulsion.
Publicover disagreed with those who call such activities a tradition.
“Times change . . . in this day and age I fail to see how someone doesn’t know how and what it means to treat someone with respect,” Publicover said.
February 4, 2009.
Date of second hazing has been changed; could not confirm the exact date of hazing.
Removed "students appealing sentence"; could not confirm who is appealing the ruling.