Culture  Integration, an imfroshible mission?

Religious groups are trying to bridge the divide between bingeing and belief

As a leader for my paleontology-themed Frosh, my shirt was adorned with the title “Dino-Whora Laura.” At first I didn’t object to this name suggestive of bestiality; it was at least better than my cohorts’ attire. I realize in retrospect, however, that the hyper-sexualization of Frosh not only makes newbies blush, but also serves to marginalize those whose beliefs go against boasting about sexual exploits – real or fictional – on beer-stained T-shirts.

Frosh marks a lot of important firsts for McGill students. Some of the people who make up your Frosh group will undoubtedly become your first friends at McGill. I personally was comfortable enough suspending some of the conservative Christian values that I was raised with in order to delve into three days of lower-field drinking with wanton abandon. But the drinking culture and sexual rhetoric ubiquitous at Frosh has the effect of alienating a good number of religious students. Even the following age-old McGill chant popular during Frosh carries an alienating message for many religious students:

McGill once, McGill twice
Holy Fucking Jesus Christ
Wham Bam God Damn
Son of a bitch shit.

Three cheers for McGill –
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Three cheers for fucking –
McGill! McGill! McGill!

A number of religious student groups on campus offer alternative activities during Frosh to encourage inclusivity of a range of beliefs. Many of these groups attempt to shift the focus of Frosh from being primarily on heavy drinking and sexuality. The Newman Centre, Campus for Christ, Impact Church, and McGill Christian Fellowship host Fish Frosh, which is specifically geared toward Christian students. The McGill Muslim Students’ Association and Chabad Jewish Student Centre of McGill both organize a number of Frosh activities which are popular with religious students.

Rabbi Shmuly Weiss of McGill’s Chabad Students’ Centre on Peel attended the last few Froshes serving up kosher BBQ fare for students. Although he explained that lots of Jewish students participate in Frosh, he pointed out that he doesn’t know of any deeply religious Jewish students – those who adhere strictly to the laws of the Torah – who have. Regardless of which Frosh McGill newbies choose to attend, the effect is similar: those first crucial friendships are still being established between like-minded students with similar religious or non-religious orientations. How can students then meet people with different backgrounds and religious views?
Mahab Firuz is a McGill student who has worked in the Chaplaincy department for five years. She suggested that an activities or games day that was open to all students and didn’t revolve around drinking or religion would be a beneficial contribution to Frosh.

Perhaps McGill needs to take a page out of Concordia’s orientation itinerary. Our neighbouring university doesn’t organize a Frosh where registration and fees are mandatory. Instead they host a number of free events on campus where all new students can participate. The free concert that Concordia hosts at the beginning of the year is a great example of a successful event that attracts thousands of students. The result is that a more inclusive cross-section of the student population can participate in the same event.

I don’t want to discourage newbies from participating in SSMU or faculty Froshes. For those who are planning on indulging in the drinking culture prevalent in Montreal’s university population, then this intense week may serve as a boot camp where you hastily discover the many ups and downs to booze. The sexual shock value of SSMU and faculty Froshes is also a large part of their appeal. But events which attract both religious and non-religious students would serve to broaden the mindset of first-year students and overall have benefits for the coexistence of students on campus.