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Publié le vendredi, 21 octobre 2016

Vet’s Tour : « It’s Not Peer-Pres­sure, It’s Just Your Turn » (Offi­cial Trans­la­tion)

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.

FROM 2003 TO TODAY STILL, #LETSGETNAKED

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.

VETS_TOUR_FB1

Picture publi­shed on Face­book on the 8th of Octo­ber 2016, by a parti­ci­pant Vet’S Tour 2016, on which we can see the chal­lenge list.

 

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.

It’s 9:00pm, when the white t-shirts get to the Bour­bon Room on Dalhou­sie Street. This time, the entire place seems to have been priva­ti­zed. Most parti­ci­pants are now quite intoxi­ca­ted, and many are no longer wearing clothes. On one of the tables, a bottle of lubri­cant and whip­ped cream. A girl is undres­sed on the ground while other parti­ci­pants do body shots on her. Two naked people are wrap­ped in cello­phane.

Even­tually, the nights end, and the lists are, as tradi­tion has it, destroyed.

 

Picture taken on the evening of the 7th of Octo­ber 2016, in the Red Lion’s wash­room.

A HALF-MEASURE CONSENT

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”.

 

VETSTOUR_TSHIRT1

T-shirts, some of them torn apart, of the Vet’s Tour event of the 7th of Octo­ber.

WHO KNEW ?

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.