Letter: It's time to stop using the term "snake" to describe Sauder students

I’m calling out to all my classmates and friends when I write this post — and especially all my friends in other faculties — to please be careful of the language you use and think hard about how your words hurt and affect others.

The University of British Columbia boasts about its inclusiveness and its ability to facilitate a collaborative environment between so many different types of individuals. In Sauder alone, we have students from 117 different countries.

For the past four years, I’ve always felt like the students in our university were particularly amazing because of our ability to extend respect to one another despite (or maybe because of) our differences.

Yesterday was the first time I realized that was not true at all. And that’s more than shocking to me — it fills me with disgust, hurt and sadness.

At the Pep Rally yesterday, President Ono spoke about how important it was to have an education of the heart. To be accepting of others and embrace differences rather than focus on hatred and excluding others.

Yet what happened?

On the one day the entire university comes together to celebrate and unify the different faculties at our school and display not only our pride but our support for one another, I sat on the stage with all the other faculty’s student presidents, their deans, President Ono, and heard a resounding hissing and quiet chanting of “snakes” and booing when it was time for Sauder to cheer. The entire stadium filled with hissing. Take a second and let that sink in.

Imagine Day is supposed to be a day of excitement, new beginnings and opportunities. I remember being a first year and feeling both so overwhelmed and grateful at the same time — so many new people, at a new place, at the start of what really felt like a new chapter of my life. Put yourself in the shoes of all the incoming Sauder students yesterday — how do you think they felt? To feel like the entire school doesn’t want them there?

I’m calling out to my friends, and I’m asking you to stop using the term "snake" to describe our students here at Sauder, and to stop using it to describe your friends — even as a joke. If it was funny to begin with, it isn’t anymore. Not when students from all the different disciplines enable this behaviour on a day of celebration for the university. Because when you use this language, you’re perpetuating a culture of toxicity, of hate and of disrespect. And you can do a lot better.

I know I stepped into this role as the student president of our faculty because during my undergrad, I’ve met so many kind, considerate, empathetic people at every corner of our school, and it hurts a lot to see them be dehumanized like this.

Daphne Tse is a fourth year commerce student studying Business Technology Management, and is the President of the Commerce Undergraduate Society.