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ECA advances towards a new tradition

Concordia engineering and computer science students move to create a culture of inclusiveness and respect around student chants
March 13, 2014
By Tom Peacock

From left: Keena Trowell, Antonin Picou, Melissa Nielson, Kate Bellini and Chuck Wilson.

Noisy — and troubling — student chants have made headlines of late. A group of Concordia students, however, is attempting to rewrite its own chants in a spirit of acceptance and inclusiveness.

On March 10, in a bold move that has earned them much positive media attention, members of Concordia’s Engineering and Computer Science Association (ECA) unanimously passed a motion that, among other things, calls for a whole new book of chants to be written in time for next year’s frosh activities.

“I think we can all agree that promoting a culture of respect, civility and professionalism is something that is expected from a university, and in an engineering environment especially,” says ECA President Antonin Picou. “Engineering is a highly regarded profession. And engineering students should reflect that in the way they’re seen, and the way they act in university.”

The motion comes as campuses across the country grapple with stories emerging about chants being sung at student events that encourage and glorify a range of offensive and illegal attitudes and behaviour, including homophobia and sexual violence.

The ECA motion calls for the formation of a student spirit committee to create a brand-new songbook “free of crudeness and obscenity, created in collaboration with other members of the Quebec engineering student community.”

It also calls for the development of a training program for the ECA’s representatives so they can monitor behaviour at events organized by the association, and the drafting of a policy on Respectful Conduct and Complaint Resolution.

“This entails putting mechanisms in place for students to be able to voice their complaints and for us to address them in a timely manner, and coming up with the kind of actions to be taken in case a student does violate the culture of respect that we’re trying to promote,” Picou says.

The motion admits to the presence of offensive chants within the ECA specifically, and Picou says the motion stemmed from concerns expressed by its members. “We thought it was extremely important to follow through on the concerns of those students. So we worked with them and the former ECA VP Finance, Chuck Wilson, to come up with this motion.”

On March 9, the day before the ECA adopted its motion, the Quebec Confederation for Engineering Student Outreach (QCESO) — a regional body that brings together 13 accredited engineering student societies — unanimously adopted a similar motion brought by the ECA’s executives.

Watch a video broadcast of the reading of the motion at the ECA’s March 10 meeting.

* Frosh image by Tsar Kasim, Flickr Creative Commons

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