Publié le vendredi, 21 octobre 2016
We would like to thank our readers for sharing this story. However, because of all the media attention that the original article has been attracting over the last few days, La Rotonde has decided to offer an official English translation to our anglophone readers. We not only want to make the content of this story more accessible, but we also think that some errors have been made by some news outlets, making it difficult for readers to understand the whole value of said article. This is an exceptional case, considering how the story has been picked up by various medias.
Nous souhaitons remercier nos lecteurs et lectrices d’avoir partagé cet article. La Rotonde, en raison de l’attention reçue de la part des médias majoritairement anglophones, a décidé d’offrir une version anglaise officielle à son lectorat anglophone. Nous tenons non seulement à rendre le contenu de cet article plus accessible, mais nous croyons que des erreurs factuelles se sont glissées dans les articles et reportages de quelques agents médiatiques, ce qui pourrait nuire à la compréhension de l’article et de l’évènement en lui-même. Cette traduction existe à titre d’exception et a été rédigée en réaction à la couverture pancanadienne que cet article s’est attiré.
– Yasmine Mehdi –
On September 8th, an initiation event took place in Gatineau, organized by members of the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO)’s delegation to the Jeux de la communication. The next morning, participating students woke up with a serious hangover, as of the story of “12 Labours of Hercules », a list of questionable challenges that students had to complete in order to gain points, was being spread everywhere. A media feeding frenzy ensued: politicians, researchers and columnists, all weighed in the latest evidence of the rape culture scourge affecting university campuses.
A few kilometers away, the University of Ottawa kept quiet. But what if the institution, that already had its fair share of rape culture controversy, had its very own version of the “12 Labours of Hercules”? What if a similar event organized by the Science Student Association (SSA) had been going on for years now? La Rotonde investigated Vet’s Tour, the best kept secret of the student political sphere, which opens the door to all the excesses.
What is the Vet’s Tour? Organized every fall by the Science Student Association (SSA), this pub crawl seemingly brought together about a dozen teams, each representative of a different student association, composed of about eight to ten students and a judge. In total, around 80 to 120 people are believed to have participated to this event each year.
At the beginning of the event, the participants are given a long list of different challenges, each with a distinct point value. According to the testimonies of many sources that have participated in previous editions, a lot of those are rather innocent in nature, like giving a piggyback ride to a teammate in the busy streets of the ByWard Market or eating a Shawarma under a minute and a half. But not all are as innocuous. In the recent editions, many challenges involved sexual behaviour, such as : having intercourse in a specific place, getting your clitoris pierced, eating a doughnut around your teammate’s penis, exchanging ejaculatory fluid orally, or even putting your penis on a McDonald’s counter, and asking the cashier to “Super Size Me”.
Most participants appeared to be involved in student politics: members of a federate body, former 101 week guides, or friends of friends. The circle of the Vet’s Tour seems rather air tight, and the participants are cherry-picked, at least judging by the numerous testimonies acquired.
The birth year of the Vet’s Tour remains to this day unknown. While all those interviewed agree that it has been going on for several years now, a source close to the federated bodies claims: “I know one of the individual who created Vet’s Tour with their friends, a long time ago, in 2003. This person got their diploma, moved on, and then came back to school, only to find out that the event was still taking place.”
“I know one of the individual who created Vet’s Tour with their friends, a long time ago, in 2003. This person got their diploma, moved on, and then came back to school, only to find out that the event was still taking place.”
– Anonymous source, close to the federated bodies sphere
On social medias, proofs of the Vet’s Tour’s existence are piling up. In September of 2007, a photo album containing pictures of undressed participants got published on Facebook, titled “ This album begs the Q, how many time did I get nkd ? Vets Tour ’07”. Tweets dating back to 2012 mention the event, and are punctuated with hashtags such as #LetsGetNaked and #JustAddAlcohol.
2016 EDITION : ACCOUNT OF AN EVENTFUL NIGHT*
October 7th, around 5:30pm. Marion Hall is buzzing with excitement, as students gather, proudly sporting the white Vet’s Tour t-shirt. They are preparing for the night to come, at least judging by the Jack Daniels bottle one participant holds.
Around 7:00pm, participants invade the ByWard Market. Among them, known faces of student politics : from the Science Student Association (SSA), but also from the Student Association of the Faculty of Arts (SAFA), the Psychology Student Association (PSA) or the Computer Science Student Association (CSSA). Small groups roam Dalhousie Street, list in hand, t-shirt ripped open (one of the challenges). First stop: Patty Bolands, a pub on Clarence Street. One hour later, the participants are gone and two barmen clean up the damages. “I think I saw two people fuck on the dancefloor” chuckles one of them, who admits this isn’t the first Vet’s Tour he witnesses.
Next bar on the list: the Red Lion, also on Clarence Street. At the back of the establishment, behind thick curtains, a room has been privatized for the event. Once in there, one can see that most participants are naked or in their underwear. Looking at the list out of the corner of the eye, it’s easy to understand why : the points allocated for each challenge are quadrupled if the participant is in its underwear, and increased a tenfold if naked. Among the dozen of listed challenges is to eat pubic hair while making sexual noises, for 1000 points.
In the washroom of the Red Lion, echoes of conversations can be heard. One participant is trying to convince her teammate to have sex with their judge, a challenge that is worth a handful of points. The girl keeps on giving excuses as to why she doesn’t want to complete the challenge, but these go unheard. “Honestly, I don’t know, it’s too slutty for me” she mutters. Her friend then responds quite loudly with “Do it ! He is fucking cute”.
The judge ask the girl if she has a condom or if she takes the pill; she responds with a no. The other teammate finally suggests to the judge to “put it in her butt”. Suddenly, another judge comes in and interrupts them to announce that they have to get ready to go to the next bar.
At no point was consent discussed. Thus, even though a sentence on the matter was on the list, in the heat of the moment and under the influence of alcohol, consent went out the window.
Eventually, the nights end, and the lists are, as tradition has it, destroyed.
Each year, the participants have to sign a document that act as a legal discharge, as well as to pay a fee, around 15$. La Rotonde has obtained the 2015 version of this document, in which the participants have to enter their health informations and it is stipulated that they “may suffer personal injury, illness, or even death as well as property loss or damage.”, but that they will not sue the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) or the SSA.
Nowhere, in this version at least, are the sexual activities mentioned. It is hard to know if all the participants who signed the document knew exactly what they were getting into. One thing is sure though, no one is allowed to take a look at the list before the events starts.
Jean-Philippe Dubé, former vice-president of social affairs of the Computer Science Student Association (CSSA) and current student representative on the University of Ottawa’s Senate, participated to the Vet’s Tour a few years ago. “I think the majority of people who sign up don’t know explicitly the goal of the event. Personally, I knew that it was going to be crazier than most student events, that it was going to be a night of excessive drinking, and that there were going to be a few friendly challenges. It was sold to me in a discrete manner, by other VP social who knew exactly what we were getting into”, states Dubé.
“I think the majority of people who sign up don’t know explicitly the goal of the event. Personally, I knew that it was going to be crazier than average student events, that it was going to be a night of excessive drinking, and that there were going to be a few friendly challenges. It was sold to me in a discrete manner, by other VP social who knew exactly what we were getting into”
– Jean-Philipe Dubé, former participant of the Vet’s Tour and student representative on the University of Ottawa’s Senate.
This situation can of course lead to abuses, as the testimony of a former participant, who we will name Pascale, illustrates. She asserts that she had “no idea what [the Vet’s Tour] was” and that an acquaintance invited her to in order to fill a vacant spot in her team, insisting it was only a pub crawl. “I wasn’t the only one to get into this without knowing anything, there was a first year girl in the same situation”, she remembers.
The following weekend, Pascale stayed locked in her home. “I felt violated, I didn’t want others to know, or for my boyfriend to think I had cheated on him”, she explains to La Rotonde. All night long, Pascale refused to take part in the challenges. Her reservations weren’t really taken into account by her teammates, as one of them forcefully kissed her, before grabbing her crotch. The young woman had to elbow and threaten the man for him to back off.
“They consider that if you are there and you signed the document, you are down for anything . Nobody cared that I was saying no, even the judges”, she denounces.
« I felt violated, I didn’t want others to know (…) »
– Pascale, former participant of the Vet’s Tour.
For Pascale, the peer-pressure and the excessive alcohol consumption makes this event particularly susceptible to excesses. The former participant remembers that her teammates wouldn’t stop asking her to take her clothes off for them to gain more points. When she tried to tell them she wanted to go home, her team discouraged her from leaving, claiming they were going to be disqualified if she did.
According to an anonymous source, one of the event’s slogans was even for a long time “It’s not peer pressure, it’s just your turn”.
Who is to blame for these misconducts? The organizers, in this case the SSA? The participants, so therefore the majority of student associations elected members? The SFUO, who is supposed to chaperon all the federated bodies?
The response to this question is complex, as it is hard to know who knew what. According to sources close to the issue, the federated bodies were trying to keep the event secret, even though there are proof that a good number of former executive members of the SFUO did participate to previous editions. On that matter, Dubé is clear : “The SFUO knows about it, I have no doubt about that. They know very well that this kind of event is going on, but they have a policy of see no evil.” He emphasized also that “the SFUO completely separates itself” from those kind of behaviours ever since the scandal that hit them during the Anne-Marie Roy presidency in 2014.
Jack Bisson, owner of the Patty Boland’s, says he didn’t know about the list or the sexual challenges involved. “It’s a private event, they are only here for 45 minutes, so we never ask too many questions. Maybe that is why they come back every year.” Bisson also adds that he doesn’t think he will host the next edition of the event, if there is one, stressing that he’d rather not “be associated with something like that”.
“The SFUO knows about it, I have no doubt about that (…), but they have a policy of see no evil.”
– Jean-Philipe Dubé, former participants of the Vet’s Tour and student representative on the University of Ottawa’s Senate.
Chances are low that the University of Ottawa administration had any knowledge on such an underground event of the student political sphere. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the name of the institution was associated with the Vet’s Tour, as the organizers and the participants are students. It is also the reason why Pascale accepted to participate at Vet’s Tour. According to her, the uOttawa label gave “legitimacy” to the whole event. “For me, this was an activity organized in connexion with the school. If it hadn’t been, I surely wouldn’t have come”, she admits.
After remaining one of the best kept secret of the University of Ottawa for years, the truth about the Vet’s Tour is finally out, and with it, comes numerous questions regarding the efficiency of the battle against rape culture on university campuses.
*La Rotonde was there during the described events.