Since late September 2011, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), faculty student associations, the First-Year Office, and Student Services have been planning a reformed version of the University’s annual orientation week for new students, commonly known as Frosh week.
According to SSMU President Josh Redel, reforms were ultimately aimed at “changing the culture of Frosh as a whole to make it less of a binge-drinking festival and more of a welcome week, and truly an orientation week.”
Seeking to improve the orientation week, working groups looked at students’ past experiences during Frosh week in order to learn from past mistakes – asking, for example, whether it was “just turning into Frosh leaders making a party for themselves and having froshies alongside,” Redel explained.
Insufficient programming for students not yet old enough to drink was another one of the major issues identified in last year’s orientation week, according to AUS VP Events Josh Greenberg.
To correct this, several working groups redesigned Frosh programming over the course of the summer to ensure that a non-drinking event would be available every night of the week.
“This year we identified early on that there were two key values we wanted to emphasize: inclusivity and building community,” said Greenberg. “I genuinely think we have done so much more for the under-eighteen -year-olds than ever before.”
Improved leader training
Redel said that SSMU has been working closely with faculties to provide better leader training.
According to Greenberg, feedback from last year’s orientation week reported that leader training – given mainly by student facilitators on subjects such as first aid and sexual assault – “apparently wasn’t very effective.”
As a result, this year’s leader training was broken down into big group sessions with content experts – such as McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Committee (SEDE), which ran a session on inclusivity – as well as smaller group sessions for situational role-playing on conflict resolution and safe space, run by student facilitators.
SSMU has also been meeting with members of the Milton-Parc community hoping to curb the “bad PR,” according to Redel, created by Frosh in the neighbourhoods surrounding campus. This year, “street teams” of community members and students will go out during the week’s big party nights to provide food and water, remind students to keep quiet in the neighborhood, and make sure they get home safely.
Coordination between groups
This year also marks the first time that the different groups involved in planning Frosh have come together to create programming, a marked change from previous years, when, as Redel explained, there was “almost no communication” between organizers.
“We used to operate in independent silos and never really communicated with each other,” he said. “Now we have almost every unit at McGill and SSMU and the different faculty associations involved in orientation week working together at the same table.”
À la carte events
After students’ move-in to residences over the weekend, orientation events began with “Rez Fest” on Monday, followed by a SSMU-hosted concert on Tuesday, and a series of university-run events on Wednesday to introduce students to McGill and its services.
Beginning Thursday, the traditional faculty froshes are joined by a burgeoning number of non-faculty options, including Outdoors Frosh, Rad Frosh, Fish Frosh, Muslim Students Association Frosh, and the new Gefilte Frosh.
In addition, the week features a number of à la carte events, which students can register for individually. According to the orientation week website, these include over 100 events, run by over 70 different McGill services and clubs. Events include a nutritious cooking workshop hosted by Fit@McGill, a bike tour of Montreal’s green spaces hosted by the Outdoors Club, and a sex workshop by the Shag Shop and McGill Health, among others.
As Redel explained, the new events “provide a really awesome opportunity for new students to get involved in something more than street fest, where it’s just a five-minute interaction.”