A group that promotes women in the sciences has joined Memorial University's Dean of Engineering in condemning a racy message on beer mugs handed out during a recent student party.

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Memorial University engineering students received plastic mugs like this one at an orientation week party. ((Adam Walsh/CBC))

"If you look at the imagery that was on that mug, and you look at the message it sends, it basically says women are toys and they're not professional and are not intelligent," said Gloria Montano, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of Women in Science and Engineering.

The mugs, made for a beginning-of-semester party sponsored by the student engineering society, featured a picture of a scantily-clad woman with the caption, "If she's thirsty, give her the D (day)."

The expression "Give Her the D" comes from the infamous internet meme expression, "Give Her the Dick."

Myfanwy Price, president of Memorial's Student Engineering Society, said the mugs were meant to be a joke.

However, Montano said the imagery and attitudes behind the mug make her group's work -- which is to encourage more women and girls to pursue careers in science and engineering -- harder.

"When we see images like this, it undermines the work of a lot of people who are trying to bring things together."

'Difficult' meeting

Meanwhile, Memorial's Dean of Engineering gave the students behind the mugs a thorough chewing out.

"This is taking us backwards," said Greg Naterer. "I told them I was very disappointed in their lapse of judgment.

"It was a difficult meeting."

"We really regret it."— Myfanwy Price, Memorial's student engineering society president

Price said the students got the message.

"We really didn't understand the impact this would have on our faculty, and we really regret it," she said.

The controversy comes as two other Canadian universities, St. Mary's and UBC, are disciplining students for initiating frosh week chants that promoted non-consensual sex with underage girls.

Montano said she thinks those incidents have magnified the mug issue. She said she considers that a good thing for the engineering students at Memorial.

"When you're sensitized to something you begin to see what's been in front of you all this time," said Montano.

"And I would say people should look around them and see where else this kind of stuff is happening in their own environments."