Jeff Harper/Metro Jared Perry, Saint Mary's University Student Association president, speaks with the media at the Gorsebrook Lounge.

The president of the Saint Mary’s University Student Association says he knew about and participated in a chant glorifying the rape of underage girls – but will not step down.

“We want to be some serious advocates about sexual assault and we want to turn this around and educate more students,” said Jared Perry during a news conference Thursday.

Eighty student leaders and three SMUSA executive members will undergo sensitivity training after a video surfaced of them leading hundreds of first-year students in the chant, which spells out the word “young” with lines like, “u is for underage, n is for no consent.”

Perry said the chant has been taught to frosh for “years.”

He said he and the other leaders just didn’t think about the message.

“It’s more about the rhyme and the chant behind it,” he said. “As odd as it sounds, we didn’t see the message… we now realize that it’s extremely serious and we don’t want it to happen any more.”

Perry has resigned as chair of the Students Nova Scotia group, but will not give up the office of SMUSA president.

“It’s definitely the biggest mistake I’ve made throughout my university career and probably my life,” he said. “I feel that there’s opportunity here to make some changes and I really do want to turn this around.”

Saint Mary’s president Dr. Colin Dodds called the chant “completely inexcusable.”

“My colleagues and I were shocked by this incident and are deeply sorry that our students, and now the community at large, were exposed to disturbing sexually charged material,” he said in a statement. “I am taking measures to ensure it does not happen in the future.”

Frosh leader says she complained in 2012

Third-year Saint Mary’s student and former frosh leader Alexandria Bennett says she voiced concerns to SMUSA last year about the chant.

“I remember standing in the back, with my group, just hearing people say, ‘Oh my god, what the hell is this?'”

After one of her new students, a rape survivor, voiced her outrage, Bennett says she spoke with SMUSA General Manager Cathie Ross.

Bennett says the general manager brushed aside her concerns.

Ross couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday, but in an email Friday, Ross said she had had no prior knowledge of the chant’s content and referred to the allegation by Bennett as “unfounded.”

“If such a complaint had been made it would have been acted on immediately,” she said.

SMUSA president Jared Perry told reporters Thursday, “I have personally never received any complaints until yesterday.” – with files from Halifax News Net

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