During a Sept. 28 press conference, Quebec Minister of Women Lise Thériault addressed concerns of the correlation between Frosh activities and hazing following various incidents at universities and colleges across the province of Quebec. A Montréal Gazette editorial on Frosh, in addition to the Minister’s comments, started a conversation among Frosh coordinators, administration, and students on whether “hazing” applies to McGill Froshes and how these events can be more safe.
In reference to alleged combination of sexual assault and heavy drinking that took place during Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Law Frosh orientation, Thériault told the press that action must be taken to ensure that these types of incidents do not happen again. She stated that such behaviours do not belong at universities.
According to Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) Vice-President (VP) Internal Affairs Ziyaan Harji, Thériault’s comments do not apply to McGill Froshes.
“Science Frosh, as well as all Froshes, both faculty and non-faculty based, have made it clear to our participants, leaders, and staff, that it is not in any way a form of initiation and it certainly does not involve hazing,” Harji said. “I don’t believe [Montreal Gazette’s editorial on hazing during Frosh orientation] will affect the future of our Frosh.”
McGill Dean of Students Christopher Buddle does not believe that banning Frosh would be a constructive solution to prevent future incidents from occurring. Instead, McGill should continue its work to improve education on consent issues for Frosh participants.
“Our Frosh activities are tightly connected to broader orientation for incoming students, and include viewing videos about consent, through to mandatory workshops in our residence halls,” Buddle said. “There’s always room to improve, but overall I think McGill is taking the right approach to Frosh, and we will continue to adjust on a yearly basis to ensure our incoming class has a positive experience.”
Certain faculty Froshes have undergone changes to promote a healthy environment. For example, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) has has worked to improve the inclusivity of Arts Frosh in recent years, according to AUS VP Social Affairs Kat Svikhnushin.
“One of the reasons that we are different is our commitment to inclusivity and improving upon Frosh each year, which we’ve done through initiatives such as [establishing] the Director of Inclusivity, [the] sober ally program, Frosh bursaries, and extensive coordinator, leader, and staff training,” Svikhnushin said.
Ellen Gurung, U1 Arts, felt that her Frosh leaders were respectful and did not make people feel like they had to drink; however, the atmosphere at some events made drinking seem like a necessity.
“Beach day is like, ‘We’re drinking at [9 a.m.],’ and some people were completely out before we got on the bus,” Gurung said. “That was weird for me. It seemed [that] to enjoy beach day, you needed to be drunk. It was uncomfortable to see how many people were over the edge, I was wondering if they were okay.”
Alyanna Jamal, U0 Science, said the amount of drinking during Frosh week has both positive and negative aspects.
“I feel like that depends on the individual [when it comes to the drinking culture during Frosh],” Jammal said. “I find many people take it as a great way to meet new people and socialize, as I [did], but I also find that at times people can use it in a harmful way to blow off steam.”
Harji emphasized that alcohol safety is a focus of Frosh preparations, and that both McGill and community groups collaborate to ensure the success and safety of Frosh.
“The safety of our participants is our number one priority, with leaders and staff going through extensive training on alcohol safety and consent, active bystander intervention, etcetera,” Harji said. “As student leaders and coordinators, we work very closely with McGill administration and the greater Montreal community, including the [Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee (MPCC)] and the [Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM)], to ensure everyone’s enjoyment.”
According to Buddle, collaboration between the administration and Frosh organizers is needed to promote positive behavior at future Froshes.
“The positive elements of Frosh need to be recognized–developing lifelong friendships, feeling connected to a faculty and university, becoming familiar with what can be, for some, a very daunting environment,” Buddle said. “Banning Frosh activities is not a good solution to stopping some of the inappropriate activities we have read about in the press. Instead, we need to continue to work collaboratively with students and Frosh organizers to develop programming, refine communications and education, and continue to move away from events that focus on alcohol.”