Sexism, drinking culture still prevalent at Frosh

AUS Equity Commissioners release critical report

In the recently released Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Frosh Report, AUS Equity Commissioner Josh Falek details an incident where a froshie yelled at a passerby, “Fuck you! I don’t know if you’re from the UQAM [or Concordia] or what but you’re not [from] McGill! How does it feel to be second best!”

In the report, Falek wrote, “The idea that this student actually had no idea where he was but was still assured he was better than everyone else was a perfect reflection of broader McGill entitlement.”

These kind of on-the-ground failings were detailed in the Frosh Report within a context of change. This year saw Frosh coordinators attempt to introduce equitable concepts into the design of Frosh, which has long been lamented as inequitable. Such changes include less of a focus on drinking, less sexually explicit, classist, and/or sexist chants, and more inclusive programming.

However, the Frosh Report details that the attempted implementation of these equitable concepts often didn’t extend into practice.

In one case at Gerts – although the game was not supposed to be played under the new equitable rules at Frosh – groups played “Strip Waterfall,” where participants had to take off their clothes while drinking.

“It’s a really weird introduction to McGill campus – ‘this is where you’re going to be for the next four years, get used to taking off your clothes in academic buildings,’” Falek said.

“The whole rape culture that is associated with [drinking games] is what really needs to go,” AUS Equity Commissioner Hannah Sinclair added. “It’s the compulsory [sexual] aspect of it. There’s a huge pressure.”

A redesigned pub crawl – renamed the “Montreal crawl” – was touted earlier by Frosh coordinators to The Daily. According to Falek, however, visits to city parks and other activities aimed to make the crawl less alcohol-heavy didn’t work. “From what I saw, the pub crawl was a pub crawl. I did not see anything different from that.”

“I think there’s something to be said that we’re still sending kids to the hospital every year,” said Falek, noting what he called an “unsafe drinking culture” at Frosh.

According to AUS VP Events Paul Laughlin, the AUS executive was unaware of these problems during Frosh, and were only informed afterward by Dean of Students André Costopoulos and Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens. “One of the biggest things we want to work on is we want to develop a better, across-the-board communication system throughout Frosh,” Laughlin told The Daily.

There were consequences for both leaders and froshies who broke the rules – at least in theory. Bracelets could be cut, disallowing the individual from attending any more Frosh events. However, cutting a bracelet took two coordinators to validate the claim and to administer the punishment – something that was hard to come by in the confusion of Frosh, according to both Laughlin and Falek.

The needed revision of the selection process for leaders was emphasized by both the AUS executive and Equity Commissioners. “The biggest problem is there [are] still Frosh leaders and coordinators not really taking into consideration that equity is needed, [or] wanting it to be there,” Falek said.

“You can’t expect equity to be maintained in Frosh by people who may not necessarily be trained in equitable purposes,” added Falek, referring to the need for Equity Commissioners to supervise the hiring process.

According to the AUS Equity Commissioners, one of the main problems with the attempted integration of equity was the expectation that Frosh would transform itself overnight. “You can’t just say things are going to be equitable now. It’s not an instantaneous thing, it’s a process, it needs to continue,” Sinclair said.

“The equity policy is there in theory but not really in practice,” she continued. “And so the consequences are also there in theory but they’re not necessarily being put into practice.”

The Frosh Report echoed a similar sentiment, stating, “Equity is not something that can be achieved in a single year. Oppression does not cease to exist because of some minor modifications. The entire system must be adjusted to include and promote those who could not access it previously.”