Frosh Week. When a tide of late-teens flood to university, leaving their nests for the first-time to usher in a new phase of life. Free from the eyes of their parents, this newfound freedom is exhilarating but at the same time, it’s terrifying.
Admittedly, we were both pretty fearful of the guys who were supposed to help us through this time. Our frosh leaders–all older students, many male, plenty frat affiliated–really set the tone for the whole week. While well-intentioned, these guys were still intimidating to our naive, 17-year-old selves.
So it’s beyond comprehension that, year after year, frosh leaders across Canada are caught spreading messages that are at best disrespectful and at worst despicable.
This year, it wasn’t chants about raping underage girls from the west coast’s University of British Columbia to the other side of the country, at St. Mary’s University, Halifax. This year the OBVIOUSLY offensive behaviour was closer to home. Frosh leaders at our very own alma mater, Carleton University, flaunted t-shirts they’d made all over social media. The tees read “FUCK SAFE SPACE . . . OR ME” along with their individual Twitter handles (so at least if they didn’t get to fuck a 17 or 18-year-old girl, they’d get five or ten new followers out of it).
Safe space is a policy of general respect at Carleton that aims to make campus as welcoming as possible for people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, including students who may be gay, trans, or rape survivors, to name a few examples. Frosh leaders are the students on campus who are expected to create safe spaces.
The first time Emma heard of safe space was in her first week of university. A frosh leader who she’d gone to high school with offered to give her his phone number in case she got lost in Ottawa or had questions about the unfamiliar campus. He was genuinely being kind, but said they had to exchange numbers on the low because there were strict rules against frosh leaders asking out first-year girls due to “safe space”. It seemed logical that the guys in charge of frosh didn’t hit on first year girls . . . for at least a week. There would be plenty of frat keggers for that throughout the year.
If we’d arrived at university to student leaders, mostly upper year males, saying “fuck safe spaces or fuck me,” the last thing we’d feel is safe.
The fact that no one in the entire committee arranging this year’s frosh week protested these outrageous tees, or at least questioned the sanity of whoever’s idea it was, is shocking. The entire point of the first week of university is to welcome new students, calm their nerves and rouse excitement for the coming years.
Luckily, other students at Carleton shared our outrage, insult and disbelief. Our soul sister, and fellow witch, Julia Allen arranged a rally to EMBRACE safe space outside of Carleton’s University Centre.
“Though this incident was awful, it isn’t isolated. Casual discrimination happens on our campus and in our greater community every single day. Having the privilege and ignorance to wear a shirt that says ‘Fuck Safe Space’ is indicative that people who’ve never been subject to the kinds of discrimination safe spaces seek to eliminate legitimately don’t understand how their offensive their actions can be,” she said.
“That’s exactly why we rallied–we saw this as a really unique opportunity to fuel our anger and outrage into something positive–educating others.”
Young anxious teens don’t need to see signs saying “Honk if You’re Droppin’ Off Your Daughter” (neither do parents) nor supposedly “welcoming” older students publicizing their aversion to safe space and their fondness of being fucked.