During the first week of September, Montreal’s air was saturated with the enthusiasm, anticipation, and cheer that accompanied McGill’s Orientation Week for incoming first-years. In previous years, McGill’s Frosh has been criticized for its alcohol-centric activities and lack of respect for its surroundings. Building on efforts from past Frosh teams, there were concerted efforts made by Frosh coordinators this year to continue creating an enjoyable atmosphere for both participants and the local community by implementing several new initiatives, activities, and policies.
The gradual shift towards a more inclusive Frosh entailed adding more diverse and non-drinking events to the program. Both Arts and Management Frosh gave students the chance to watch Montreal’s CFL team, the Alouettes, play a game in Molson Stadium. Management students were also invited to cheer during Redbull’s soap box races, an event where local amateur racers build and race their own non-electric vehicles, while Engineering Frosh hosted a dry block party. All Frosh participants had the option to attend a throwback-themed night event with a live band on the same night as the EDM concert at New City Gas, in response to requests for more diverse night events and music selection. Lastly, the beer tent on Lower Field was drastically reduced to lesson the focus on alcohol.
While inclusivity among Frosh participants was important, there was another group of people who were considered thoroughly in the process: The Milton-Parc community. In the past, the area’s residents have had to bear loud cheers, unruly behaviour, and party music at all hours of the day during Frosh Week. This year, policies were implemented to foster a respectful relationship between Frosh and its surrounding environment. Letters were mailed to the members of the Milton-Parc community outling SSMU’s commitment to minimizing disruptions, and offering contact information should disrespectful behaviour arise. Loud and offensive chants were banned from being taught and used, a policy that had been implemented in the past years. Additionally, a better relationship with the community was cultivated through social events.
“We organized our first ever potluck barbecue for the Milton-Parc community citizens,” Executive Director of Management Frosh Joshua Schulman, explained. “With regards to the [Service de la Police de la Ville de Montreal], we met with [SPVM] beforehand to explain our schedules to make sure all our participants were safe.”
Having classes start on Friday also meant that major changes to the week’s programming needed to be made. In response, there was an extra day of Frosh that made activities more spaced out and with more downtime in the mornings to rest.
“We obviously did not want to incentivize students to not go to class, so we kept all Thursday night events low-key and on the day of class, the only event on Friday was a games and inflatable day on lower field,” Lola Baraldi, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President Internal, said. “It was planned so students could trickle in and out between classes […] and faculty-specific events picked up once classes finished […] It led to a lot more alternative and inclusive programming.”
A final addition to Frosh this year was the introduction of Red Frogs at an event. Red Frogs is a peer support network for young people who stay fully sober at events and act as a harm reduction service. They offered support at social events and educated students on safe partying behaviour. Red Frogs appeared at the majority of Frosh events where they gave out water, granola bars and sunscreen, and provided a safe space to take breaks from the madness of Frosh.
As Frosh continues on its transition from its drinking-centered past to a more inclusive present, organizers and staff hope to keep pushing forward changes that assure Orientation Week remains a positive memory in the minds of future McGill students.