News | Frosh organizers attempt to shift focus from drinking

Leaders seek to implement “culture change” with reforms

For the second consecutive year, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), in conjunction with various student faculty associations, introduced a number of initiatives aimed at making Frosh more inclusive to underage and non-drinking students.

The changes included revamped elements such as harm reduction teams, “Chill Zones” that offered sunscreen and water, and more all-ages events across faculties.

Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) VP Internal Sahil Kumar and his colleagues also implemented additional changes to SUS Frosh. Kumar told The Daily that the SUS launched a “sober Frosh group” for students who abstained from drinking for any reason.

Another reform in SUS Frosh sought to hold leaders more accountable. “One of the things we encouraged this year was the designated dry leader,” said Sahil.

“[The dry leader] would be as sober as their least drunk froshie.”

The effort to shift the focus of Frosh from drinking has been a persistent target of reforms. Last year, then-SSMU President Josh Redel told The Daily that the reforms were aimed at “changing the culture of Frosh as a whole to make it less of a binge-drinking festival.”

SSMU VP Internal Brian Farnan described this year’s Frosh reforms in a similar fashion. “What we are trying to do is create programming […] where drinking is taking place but [that] is not focused on drinking.”

One such initiative this year was the rebranding of the pub crawl, now dubbed the “Montreal Crawl.” The traditional pub crawl was integrated into a scavenger hunt complete with food stops, to include both drinking and non-drinking students.

“I think that we as organizers are really proud of our [events with alcohol], we think it is very indicative of the culture here in Montreal,” said Farnan. “The majority of students are eighteen when they come to school.”

“We believe that it is important for their safety and independence to treat them as adults as soon as they get here,” Farnan continued. “That being said, we also recognize that not everyone drinks.”

Mitchell Miller, Campus Life and Engagement’s Student Life Coordinator, echoed Farnan and Kumar’s positive stance on the relationship between alcohol and Frosh, but noted, “We still need to work on the leaders to be part of this culture change. I think this year saw a lot of change with the coordinators really taking that ownership.”

However, according to Justin Koh, SSMU Equity Commissioner, these initiatives – while a step in the right direction – have not solved all the problems. “I think [alcohol] is definitely still is a very big component of Frosh, if not the largest component. There were a lot rules that they put in to make sure Frosh was more accessible to everyone.”

“I think drinking culture is this big umbrella term,” said Koh. “Alcohol – yeah, whatever, but what comes out of the Frosh culture is the bigger problem.”

AUS Equity Commissioner Josh Falek’s opinion was similar to Koh’s, stating in an email to The Daily, “I would say that as ever, Frosh is invested in a culture very much about the consumption of alcohol.”

“This year, however, it seemed that the Frosh coordinators tried to replace some of the most reprehensible aspects with temporary fixes to create a sort of ‘transitionary’ [sic] year, so that they could start the process of creating a more equitable Frosh.”

With files from Dana Wray.