Senior Leaders on Sauder 2013 FROSH: A Discourse Analysis

Last term, I chose to do my ENGL 312A (Discourse and Society) final paper on how people at UBC talk about the Sauder 2013 FROSH chants. In today’s blog entry, I will discuss the portion of my research that focused on how senior leaders at UBC responded to the controversy.

Do you remember a time when Sauder had the most amazing FROSH activities on campus? Me neither. When I came to UBC, I was a second-year transfer student entering Sauder. It was 2014 and FROSH was no longer an event held for new students. New students to Sauder now attended The Spark, a student-run event welcoming first-years and transfer students. Before arriving to UBC, I had heard so much about how Sauder students had the wildest parties among all faculties. Although I was not one to party, I was intrigued by the idea of celebrating in style with my future classmates. 2014, however, was the year that immediately followed the controversial Sauder FROSH chants that alluded to having non-consensual sex with minors.

On September 18, 2013, The Ubyssey published a video featuring Stephen Toope (UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope), Louise Cowin (Vice President, Students), and Robert Helsley (Dean of Sauder) at a press conference meant to update the public on UBC’s response to the chants. For the purpose of my research project, I transcribed parts of the press conference, divided the transcript into clauses, and then conducted a mood analysis.

My most significant finding was the number of non-finite and minor clauses present in the press conference versus other transcripts I analyzed. In ANALYSING Casual Conversation, Suzanne Eggins and Diane Slade state:

In the analysis of written text, the mood type ‘non-finite’ clause would be a very important one. However, in casual conversation, non-finite clauses are relatively rare. This is because the structural dependency they involve demands a degree of textual planning that is at odds with the spontaneity and rapidity of the casual context. (Eggins and Slade 96)

Below is a comparison of non-finite and minor clauses I found in (1) the press conference and (2) a casual conversation between me and another member of the UBC community in an informal setting.

Number of… Press Conference Casual Conversation
Participants 4 2
Turns 6 33
Clauses 40 100
Non-finite clauses 14 3
Minor clauses 0 21

(Figures are adapted from my report. Numbers are all estimates.)

What made the casual conversation “casual” was the nature in which I conducted the interview. Since there were few interviews (if any) on the Sauder 2013 FROSH chants published online, I decided to take matters into my own hands and conducted casual interviews with members of the UBC community. I wanted the conversation to be informal and representative of how two friends or acquaintances might talk about the subject should they stumble across it for some reason.

According to my analysis, Cowin, Helsley, and Toope used more non-finite clauses than the participants in the casual conversation (despite having fewer turns). This was not surprising considering the genre of speech. Press conferences are formal events that allow participants to recite scripted statements to an audience of media representatives and the general public. In contrast to the high number of non-finite clauses, the number of minor clauses in the press conference was relatively low. The casual conversation had 21 minor clauses while the press conference had zero. This was not surprising either given the function of minor clauses in casual conversation:

Minor clauses generally function either as preludes to negotiation, as in the typically reciprocated use of minor clauses in greetings (Hi! – Hi), or as closures (Bye – Bye). Within negotiation, they generally encode following up reactions, that is contributions which do not have full negotiation status, as they are not anchored in a Subject-Finite. Most minor clauses therefore position the speaker as a compliant supporter of prior interaction. (Eggins and Slade 95)

Since casual conversations often have minor clauses in the form of non-lexical items (i.e. Mhmm and Hmm), it is understandable that the casual conversation I analyzed for this project also showed this pattern of using minor clauses to support prior interaction.

So, what does all of this mean? In collecting the data, I found it very difficult to find natural spoken text on the Sauder 2013 FROSH chants. With no trace of conversations, it would appear that people at UBC had ceased to talk about the controversy altogether. As someone graduating in May, I am disappointed in the lack of public acknowledgement since 2013 around the FROSH chants. As a sexual assault survivor, the silence around rape culture at UBC and Sauder stuns me. How much longer do survivors have to carry the burden of educating others on sexualized violence and rape culture? As someone who has taken various English courses over the years, I express my sincere gratitude towards the English department for allowing me to pursue my research. Before I even began my final project, I already knew I wanted to devote my time and energy into researching UBC’s response to sexual assault. Pursuing my research from an English language perspective forced me to consider the issue from an academic standpoint. Although it was difficult to learn how to quantify my research (as someone more interested in English literature than language), I appreciated the opportunity to explore a controversial issue in an academic context.

The next time you have lunch with a friend or classmate, ask them if they know about the Sauder 2013 FROSH chants. If they do, ask them what they think of them. If not, tell them what you know. If they are from Sauder, encourage them to ask the CUS and Dean Robert Helsley about what happened, and what Sauder has done to educate their faculty and students on sexual assault.

Betty is a recent commerce graduate planning to convocate in May 2018. She is an intersectional feminist; a queer POC sexual assault survivor struggling with mental illness; and an advocate for holding senior leaders at UBC accountable for their actions. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and spending just the right amount of time watching Kpop videos.

Works Cited

Eggins, Suzanne, and Diana Slade. ANALYSING Casual Conversation. Cassel, 1997. Equinox Textbooks and Surveys in Linguistics, 2005.







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