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Hamilton's McMaster university suspends student group over sexist songbook

HAMILTON - An Ontario university has suspended an engineering students' group and launched an investigation after a songbook was found to contain "sexist, violent and degrading material."

The provost of Hamilton's McMaster University says the material connected to the Redsuits student group in the Faculty of Engineering is "highly repugnant."

David Wilkinson says the university expects everyone on campus to show respect for each other and the songbook is the exact opposite to everything the university stands for.

He says McMaster has worked for years to build an inclusive student culture but it is clear in this instance that "there is far more work to do."

The Redsuits are no longer allowed to run or participate in campus events or help organize the university's Welcome Week activities this fall, where they typically promote engineering pride and spirit.

The group — named after the red jumpsuits its members wear — is part of the McMaster Engineering Society, which is financed and run independently from the university.

The university's dean of engineering said the material found in the songbook was upsetting and "entirely unacceptable."

"The Redsuits organization has a significant track record of positive work...but that the same organization appears to condone the songs and supports unsanctioned and risky activities for students runs completely counter to the values the university works to instill," Ishwar Puri said in a statement.

"Sadly, the small number of students within the organization and the red suits they wear have now become symbols of intolerance and a sexist mindset that has no place at the university or in our society.”

The action by McMaster comes about three months after outraged complaints surfaced over student chants at universities in Halifax and British Columbia.

The president of the Saint Mary's University students' association stepped down in September after a frosh-week chant glorifying the sexual assault of underage girls was captured on a video that made national headlines.

And the University of B.C.'s Sauder School of Business cut support for annual first-year orientation activities after a similar chant was sung on one or more buses during orientation events sponsored by the Commerce Undergraduate Society.

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