Apparently, the SFUO has uncovered some news that Moses forgot to inform us about: the eleventh commandment — thou shalt not drink
Originally published on Sept. 8, 2004
CALL IT WHAT you want, it’s still Frosh Week to me.
In fact, it’s still “Frosh Week” to most people, whether the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) calls it “101 Week,” “Welcome Week,” or “Orientation Week.”
Over the past few years, organizers of Frosh Week have forgotten the most important thing: Frosh is a crucial week, a rite of passage. And they have attempted to eliminate the acceptance of an essential ritual for first-year students that occurs during this right of passage — social drinking.
Last year, despite the SFUO’s attempts to stop them, underage students were drinking. They were desperate to be part of the fun and participate in the drinking ritual and the SFUO could not stop it.
Rituals establish order during chaos, and they are important transformative times in people’s lives. They strengthen and reinforce new identities and help participants to put aside their old identities. They build community and reinforce a sense of camaraderie.
The logic behind changing the name of Frosh Week is primarily political. It dilutes and politicizes Frosh Week to the point that it has been stripped of its purpose and therefore risks becoming pointless, thus making it extremely difficult for frosh to successfully integrate into the university community.
Traditionally, the first week of university is associated with images of first-year students drinking exceptional amounts of liquor and frosh running disorderly around the city.
It is completely understandable that the SFUO and Board of Administration (the highest student governing body on campus) would want to change that image by changing the name of Frosh Week to 101 Week, or by calling first-year students 101ers instead of froshers. The SFUO does not want to promote the idea that you need to drink to have fun, and neither does the Fulcrum. However, what the SFUO needs to understand is that simply changing the name does not change the nature of Frosh week.
The SFUO is fighting against our society’s culture. Not only has drinking been embedded in our culture for centuries, but it is a traditional ritual involved in Frosh Week that needs to be accepted. Being a rambunctious first-year who runs around the city is part of the process that first-years need to partake in to successfully integrate into university life.
This first week of university is a liminal period where students are separated from their old lives; they undergo the process of breaking away from their former habits and identities. Froshers should be allowed to be boisterous first-years who have a few drinks as they celebrate their newfound freedom.
The SFUO should take the most practical approach: monitoring without judging.
The 101 Week coordinators told the Fulcrum there would be “consequences” for underage students caught drinking during Frosh Week. Here’s the reality check: underage students WILL be drinking. If you make them uncomfortable asking for help, then they won’t ask for it. If a drunken underage girl walks home alone because she fears the “consequences,” her parents can blame the 101 Week organizers. If an underage guy is left vomiting in the bathroom and his friends don’t reach out due to the “consequences,” his parents should phone our Fed and give them an earful.
The SFUO needs to accept that there will be drinking, underage and otherwise. Changing the name will not change this fact, and punishing underage first-years who are simply trying to participate in the Frosh Week ritual will not help the situation. Before condemning underaged students’ actions, the SFUO should think about the “consequences” of its own.
Facts about this editorial:
- Was published in the first issue of the Fulcrum’s 65th volume.
- This Editorial appeared in the Fulcrum’s 2004 Frosh guide, the cover for which enraged the SFUO by depicting an empty beer mug for cover art.
- Mary Cummins was the Editor-in-Chief at the time. The Fulcrum’s independence from the SFUO is largely due to her and then-production manager Marcus McCann’s work.
- The push for the Fulcrum’s independence was ignited when the SFUO attempted to pull and censor this issue of the Fulcrum for featuring the mug of beer on the cover and using the term “Frosh,” which SFUO had recently stopped using in favour of “welcome week,” and later “101 week,” due to negative connotations associated with the term “frosh.”