Advertisement

Quebec biology students allege degrading hazing at Université de Sherbrooke

Several initiation activities of the Université de Sherbrooke biology department took place on campus.  (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Several initiation activities of the Université de Sherbrooke biology department took place on campus. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

WARNING: The following article contains graphic descriptions of degrading treatment.

An investigation by Radio-Canada has found that some biology students at the Université de Sherbrooke experienced hazing last year.

Students described being sprayed with water guns filled with horse urine, being asked to eat another person's vomit as well as being asked to swim naked in a nearby lake.

The events allegedly occurred during orientation week in August 2023.

The CBC and Radio-Canada have agreed to keep the students' names confidential because they are still attending the university, and they fear reprisal for speaking out.

Alexandre, a student who has been given a pseudonym, compared his second day at the university to a "military boot camp."

"We were all on our knees and insults were shouted at us," he said. "They [the hazers] arrived with a pan filled with a kind of porridge that we had to eat. [...] A guy got sick. We got yelled at so much that someone else agreed to eat it [the vomit]."

Hazing activities involving animal urine, incitements to undress in public and other forms of humiliation also occurred in 2019, according to Radio-Canada sources who described those actions as "traditions."

Some initiation activities were described as a boot camp. Here, students had to imitate trout that find themselves out of water. In a video obtained by Radio-Canada, initiators are seen walking on participants.
Some initiation activities were described as a boot camp. Here, students had to imitate trout that find themselves out of water. In a video obtained by Radio-Canada, initiators are seen walking on participants.

Some initiation activities were described as a boot camp. Here, students had to imitate trout that find themselves out of water. In a video obtained by Radio-Canada, initiators are seen walking on participants. (Submitted by confidential source)

Orientation activities are meant to be an opportunity for students to build a circle of friends in a new school environment. They are generally organized by second-year students who commit to following several guiding principles dictated by the Université de Sherbrooke and obtain approval for the activities that will be offered to new students.

Another student, whom the CBC is calling Marie, also says she had a bad experience during the series of events, where she had hoped to connect with other new students in the biology program.

"After the sort of military camp, they put us back on our knees, in rows," she said. "They started spraying us with water guns. We quickly realized that they were filled with urine from a mare in heat."

Naked in Lac des Nations

Several games were organized at Jacques-Cartier Park, but one activity in particular took students by surprise.

Participants were allegedly told to go skinny dipping in Lac des Nations according to several Radio-Canada sources. Signage on the bank indicates that swimming in the lake is prohibited.

Marie said the hazers insisted that students undress themselves before pressuring them to jump in the lake.

Students allegedly skinny dipped in Lac des Nations although swimming is prohibited.
Students allegedly skinny dipped in Lac des Nations although swimming is prohibited.

Students allegedly skinny dipped in Lac des Nations although swimming is prohibited. (André Vuillemin/Radio-Canada)

"They told us we were idiots if we didn't do it," she said. "I refused, but others really did it. It created a lot of discomfort afterward with those who had said no."

Other students, like Julianne (not her real name), didn't hesitate to take off their clothes and go swimming.

"I just did it because I felt like it," she said. "The more clothes you took off to go in the lake, the more points you got," she said.

Her participation earned her an "X" drawn on her face — a mark to identify the most "resourceful" among new students, which the hazers said was worth its weight in gold.

"We didn't know it at the time, but it was the start of lots of tests," Julianne said. "They really wanted to see how far we were willing to go."

The next test allegedly consisted of running a few hundred metres on Wellington Street South, completely naked, according to Radio-Canada sources.

"We get there, and they tell us to undress and run to the bar [La P'tite Grenouille]," said Julianne. "Those who had an X on their face, they could do it. It was like, 'If you're into games, do it!'"

For her, being naked in the heart of downtown Sherbrooke was the last straw.

"They were definitely pushing for it," she said. "There were a few who decided to do it, but for me, that's really where I decided that it was too much," she said.

Those who passed previous tests were invited to take another one the next day. While the sun was barely up, participants were allegedly encouraged to drink large quantities of alcohol on campus, according to our sources.

University launches investigation

Jocelyne Faucher, vice-rector and secretary general of Université de Sherbrooke, said the university has launched an investigation into the allegations.

"This is completely unacceptable," she said. "At no time does the university tolerate such actions, violence, intimidation."

Initiation activities were organized by unofficial groups without the approval of the institution, Faucher said.

Radio-Canada contacted the people in charge of the initiation activities on multiple occasions, but they did not respond to requests for an interview.