After receiving reports of naming rituals taking place in MacNeil, the administration has temporarily removed Thomas Kyte, House President, and Vice-President Oliver Samuel from their residence.
Last spring, the university negotiated terms of readmission to MacDonald, MacPherson, and MacNeil with members of the Students’ Union and other student representatives. After having declared last November that no returners would be allowed back in MacIsaac or the TriMac residences, the university later announced that it would allow up to six second-years to return to the male residences on University Avenue.
Readmission was contingent on several negotiated conditions. Returners had to have a minimum average of at least 55%, be a considered a full-time student, and submit a 500-word essay outlining how they would contribute positively to the university’s change of culture for the TriMac residences in 2016-17. No male alumni were to be allowed entry into MacKinnon or Cameron Hall, a change that had already been implemented in MacDonald for 2015-16.
Most significantly, however, the university decided to prohibit pre-assigned nicknames in residence. Each of the all-male residences has a unique ritual for assigning nicknames to freshman students, and these traditions have prevailed in Cameron and MacKinnon Halls for many years.
According to Bob Hale, Head of Student Services, stripping students of their identity and forcing them to identify by another name ‘or else’ will now be unequivocally defined as hazing, a practice that is strictly prohibited on campus. “We’re not putting up with shenanigans,” Hale states. “If there’s hazing or if there’s traditions that aren’t positive for the university or for the students, we’re not having it anymore.”
The House Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the TriMac residences were clearly informed of these new regulations prior to Welcome Day. The six HPs and VPs sat down with Joelle French, the Students’ Union’s Vice-President of Residence Affairs, and several university administrators to review the conditions of readmission and discuss different strategies and goals for the building. According to French, “It was explicitly communicated what the conditions [for readmission] were.”
The investigation into the events pertaining to Kyte and Samuel’s temporary dismissal is ongoing and could not be commented on by university administrators. However, The Xaverian Weekly can confirm that the incident that resulted in Kyte and Samuel’s relocation took place at the annual MacNeil Naming Party and was in violation of the conditions outlined in the proposal for readmission. The university was informed of these events by student disclosure.
The university has instructed Kyte and Samuel not to comment on the details of the naming party. No other MacNeil residents or alumni were willing to comment on Kyte and Samuel’s dismissal from residence or how the tradition in residence has been affected by these changes.
Given MacNeil’s silent solidarity, The Xaverian Weekly reached out to Darcy MacIsaac, last year’s Vice-President of MacDonald, for a comment on how the university’s new regulations stand to affect the TriMac residences. MacIsaac identified the prohibition of pre-assigned nicknames as part of the administration’s “constant move to make StFX cut and dry, [which means losing] more and more of the tradition that makes it a quality university with a personality, not just a pit stop to the rest of your life.”
MacIsaac did not personally take issue with receiving a nickname in his first year and cited some positive benefits of the practice. “Not only does it start you off with a mentor, in a sense, which for me was pretty huge, but it all goes toward the idea that you’re here for something bigger, something past your four years,” he shared.
Jacqueline De LeeBeeck, Director of Student Life, and Matt Girard, the Student Conduct Officer, are currently collecting witness statements, which will be compiled into a report along with Kyte and Samuel’s statements. This report will be presented to the Judicial Board, the body that will determine the outcome for the individuals involved.
While Kyte and Samuel have not been dismissed from their roles as House President and Vice-President, they are not allowed to continue their assigned duties because they are not living in the building. French and members of Residence Life are carrying out their responsibilities in the interim period.
The outcome could be determined by the second week of October at the earliest; the process could last as long as three months if the defendants decide to appeal the outcome. According to French, there is still a chance that Kyte and Samuel could return to MacNeil to resume their roles as HP and VP.
Regardless of the outcome, the severity with which the university is handling the incident demonstrates their commitment to changing the culture in the TriMac residences in order to better accommodate all students. “When we met with [the Students’ Union] last year, we reviewed documents back to 2007 and it was the same thing over and over and over… We just said this time we’re really going to do it,” Hale commented.
French also reiterated Hale’s sentiment, stating, “The way things have been happening in the past couple years – it’s not allowed anymore. The university’s done.”
Hale disclosed that approximately 10-15% of students living in the TriMac residences will come forward and express their discomfort with practices such as door kicking and bed flipping. Neither Hale nor De Leebeeck would provide further comment on the nature of the complaints received, as it could jeopardize confidentiality.