Last week, McGill University’s annual Orientation Week included a new addition to the traditional festivities—a phone hotline initiative called ‘How’s My Froshing.’
‘How’s My Froshing’ is an automated phone and text service that allowed participants, leaders, staff, and coordinators of frosh to communicate in an efficient manner. The service immediately connectd callers to services such as Nightline, WalkSafe, DriveSafe, and the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMMS).
Phone numbers of every frosh participant, coordinator, and orientation leader were registered to the system before Orientation Week. The system automatically gave relevant information to callers, such as the events that were currently taking place on their calendars.
“The goal is to centralize our communication,” Brian Farnan, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Internal, said. “Any frosh leader, operation staff, coordinator, or executive member of respective faculties [is able] to text or call any frosh participant at any given time.”
“After having worked closely with frosh for many years, I saw that communication was crucial and could use a bit of extra support,” said Josh Redel, former-SSMU president and the programmer behind the hotline system.
Campus Life and Engagement’s Student Life Coordinator Mitchell Miller called the program a “customer service for frosh” and said the hotline served as a way to improve the inclusivity of Orientation Week.
“We’re trying to change the culture and come up with new initiatives,” Miller said. “We have a new project of inclusivity, sustainability, and community building. So there is a cultural change in that froshes are more focused on how can every student—whatever they like to do for fun—find something welcoming and exciting about frosh and Orientation Week as a whole.”
According to Redel, the service is also a response to feedback that has been gathered from previous Orientation Weeks, and also provided instant feedback from participants in this year’s events.
“I think something like this empowers the community to be part of improving frosh,” Redel said. “The problem we have always faced in the past is the time between the actual event taking place and feedback being received [….] Our desire with this system is to be able to get feedback on-the-fly so as to more quickly incorporate changes as needed, and to be able to better assess comments in the moment as opposed to weeks or even months later.”
By the end of Orientation Week, a total of 5,365 calls to the How’s My Froshing hotline had been completed, for a total of 6,260 minutes of service. Of all calls, 1,048 were inbound calls; 4,942 were mass voice messages sent to leaders, operation staff, or participants; and 84 were connection calls, in which the hotline transferred to services such as McGill Security Services, DriveSafe, and WalkSafe.
In addition, 8419 SMS messages were sent or received. The majority of those were mass texts sent to leaders, operation staff, or participants.
Farnan expressed hope that the success of the program during its introduction this year demonstrates its potential for the future.
“We have both real time and long-term capabilities,” Farnan said. “We can respond to situations. If someone leaves a message, we can immediately act on it. Also, we take the long-term into account, just adding another layer of surveying.”
Despite the numbers, however, not all students considered the service to be particularly useful during their frosh experience.
“I am not sure how many people would actually [use the] option,” a first-year A=rts student who could not be identified said. “They told us about the number, but I haven’t even thought about it since to be honest.”
Miller, however, said he was optimistic for the future of the service.
“We had never done something like this before for Orientation Week, and there’s little precedence of anything like this at other campuses,” Miller said. “Looking at the data, I can only be excited by the numbers we got and more excited by how the system’s use can only expand and increase.”