An apparent hazing ritual at a Toronto university will go unpunished despite sharp condemnation from school officials, students and even the province's top politician.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke out Monday following the incident at Ryerson University involving a group of engineering students trying to become orientation leaders during next year's frosh activities.
YouTube footage shows the aspiring student leaders in their underwear crawling through ice and slush on an outdoor university skating rink while organizers in blue coveralls shout at them from the sidelines. Some of the hecklers threw snowballs at the participants, and at one point a male bystander appears to spank a female student as she crawls by.
Wynne said hazing rituals no longer have a place in any student community.
"I think they're outdated," she said. "I think that they are dangerous, and I think we have to do everything to make sure that all our students, in whatever institution, are safe."
The incident, which took place Thursday, was also being decried by the university itself.
Ryerson President Sheldon Levy issued a statement calling the frosh leader initiation event both shocking and demeaning.
"There is no excuse for the completely unacceptable activities that took place at the event, and anyone who contends it is 'just fun' or 'builds community' has no place at Ryerson," the statement read. "My response to the students and the community is to express my strongest determination that this kind of behaviour never happens again."
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Levy said university officials had arranged to meet with the Ryerson Engineering Students Society to discuss the incident. The university later issued a statement saying no action would be taken against the student group.
"The focus of the meeting was on education and prevention, not punishment," the statement said, adding the engineering students' group was in the process of developing new policies to prevent such incidents from happening again.
Rose Ghamari, the group's president, said last week's event was the first wrong note in a tradition dating back seven years.
She said the crawl across the rink — which came at the end of a 45-minute event featuring mostly jumping and dancing — had taken place in the past and was intended to encourage spirit among future student leaders. She acknowledged, however, that things got out of hand this time.
"It was never intended to be a hazing. Unfortunately, there were some incidents that occurred at the event which were unacceptable," she said, referring to any instances of physical contact with the participants. "Anything that would seem demeaning in any way is not endorsed by (the society.)"
The incident comes months after the women's hockey team at Dalhousie University in Halifax was forced to forfeit its season after the bulk of the team was suspended over a hazing incident.
All but the team's rookie players were suspended Jan. 3 after the university investigated allegations of hazing at a private house party last September.