This year’s Frosh, now known to coordinators and the McGill administration as Integrated Orientation Week, has been altered in terms of the organization of the event and its activities. Notable changes include the beer tent charging $2.50 a beer, black Frosh shirts – chosen to render writing on the shirts less visible – and the banning of McGill chants in public places.
Jana Luker, Executive Director of Student Services, said that the idea for the changes began two years ago. Luker collaborated with a student working group last year to get feedback on what students and the Milton-Parc community thought about Frosh. Consultations took the form of focus groups and surveys conducted by the working group.
Luker explained that, through consultations, the local Milton-Parc community expressed concerns about the chants and inappropriate writing on Frosh t-shirts. Luker also pointed to alcohol as a reoccurring concern during consultations. She said that students who were not drinking alcohol at Frosh often expressed worries that they were subsidizing alcohol while others were drinking for free.
“We’ve got about 30 per cent of students who don’t drink or are underage, or both, during Frosh itself,” Luker said. “Then it became more of an equity issue.”
Despite the consultations, Josh Redel, president of the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), said EUS was not included in the process and had yet to see the findings of the working group.
“These changes are not cooperative,” he said. “I would like to see really what people are saying. It would be nice to see and be part of [the consultation process].”
Redel also said the administration didn’t like Frosh “in the sense that it’s an all-drinking event, and that’s how it’s perceived from outside.”
“That’s not part of what they want their image to be,” he said.
Redel noted that the administration is “not necessarily wrong” about being concerned over the external perception of Frosh and the emphasis on drinking, but that “they’re going about it way too late, and they’re doing a pretty bad job at communicating.”
Redel said that Morton Mendelson, Deputy Provost (of Student Life and Learning) told Frosh coordinators that they needed to charge a fee for beer in August. He also said that Mendelson blocked Frosh coordinators’ ability to book spaces for Frosh on campus until they had signed an agreement to charge for beer.
“We have to bend over backwards to meet the thousand requirements of McGill, but there’s no reverse-accountability,” he said. “Who do we complain to if Morton Mendelson says you have to charge at the beer tent? Who holds him responsible that we can get in contact with who’s not already on his side?”
AUS President Jade Calver said that by the time AUS was alerted that they would have to charge for beer, Frosh tickets had already begun to be sold and it was not possible to adjust pricing. The ticket pricing had been originally set to cover the cost of the previously free beer tent.
“I think after this year it will give us a good idea of what to expect in revenues so that in the future then we can reduce admission prices for Frosh,” she said.
Aside from the changes made to the event itself, Luker explained that there were also efforts made by the Frosh working group to integrate the various faculty Froshes differently, so that all Frosh coordinators were working together. Redel thought that the new structure did not work well.
“The Froshes are different enough that it doesn’t always make sense to be working together,” he explained, citing Arts Frosh and its large size as something that other Froshes simply could not relate to.
Luker said the organizational changes were made so that Frosh would be an event “for students, by students, with the administration’s support.” Redel perceived the increased involvement of the administration differently.
“McGill wants to be organizing Frosh,” he said. “They want to be helping coordinate, making sure that it’s going in the direction that they want it – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but they have no idea how to organize an event like this.”
“It’s four months of organizing that we know how to do, and it’s a shame that they’re not tapping into that,” he continued.
Frosh is the first large event that faculty societies undertake, normally earning revenue from the event and increasing their society’s visibility on campus. Redel pointed to these aspects of Frosh as being important to the faculty societies, adding that potentially losing Frosh to the administration was a real and scary possibility.
“I don’t doubt that they would pull Frosh away from students. We’ve been told it’s serious enough,” he said. “This is the last year we have to show that we can deal with Frosh.”
Luker said eliminating Frosh as a student run event was not the goal of the working group. “How the students want it to be, that’s how we want it to be,” she said.
Redel stated that EUS needing to change its attitude when dealing with the McGill administration, saying that they are going to work on being ‘less complacent.’
‘We’re too concerned to step on people’s feet. We need to be more direct,’ he said. ‘We’re not OK with these changes…and it needs to be a cooperative effort. But we still need to work out what bargaining chips we have.’
—with files from Jessica Lukawiecki