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SFUO exec says privately run events promote ‘exactly what we try to avoid’

Photo by Marta Kierkus

A new frosh event organized by a private teen entertainment company in Ottawa has drawn the ire of university and student leaders for its racy promotional content.

Ottawa Frosh 2014 has been heavily criticized for its original promo trailer that’s said to promote binge drinking, drug use, and the objectification of women.

The event is portrayed as “excessive in every aspect,” according to an executive of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO).

“The video displays binge-drinking, encourages drug use, places women in dangerous and hyper-sexual situations, and that’s exactly what we try to avoid when organizing our own orientation week for students,” Nicole Desnoyers, the SFUO’s vice-president of services and communications, told the CBC.

It comes only a few months after the U of O created a taskforce meant to promote “respectful behaviour on campus, particularly towards women.” The university came out with a statement of its own to distance itself from Ottawa Frosh.

“We wish to inform the student community that we are not associated with this event and that we do not endorse any of the activities associated with the company presenting it,” the statement said.

Aficionado Studios, the company responsible for the event, has since removed the video and replaced it with a tamer version.

The company’s executive director said it was all just a marketing technique.

Jarett Lopez said in a statement on Facebook that the first trailer “focused primarily on partying and nighttime activities intended to get attention and shock.” The new video focuses instead on daytime activities, but still contains some of the controversial footage from the original.

The company said its frosh week offers more fulfilling events than those offered by a student federation, like the SFUO’s 101 Week.

“Instead of just staying on campus all day, we will be all over downtown showing students the key bus routes they should know … the cheapest places for groceries, hidden gem restaurants and businesses that we have connections with, as well as teaching them simple tips and tricks to get over social anxiety and meet new people through a series of fun summer-camp-like activities and games,” Aficionado said in a press release.

101 Week is the U of O’s official university-sanctioned, student-run frosh week, and is set to take place Aug. 30 to Sept. 6.

The first two nights of 101 Week will be dry, according to its main organizer.

“We understand that not everyone is interested in drinking or being near alcohol for both personal and religious reasons,” Ikram Hamoud, the SFUO’s vice-president social, said in an email.

“We make sure that our 101 Week is safe, accessible, and inclusive to students,” she said. “We have all kinds of events from dry to wet, from parties to comedy nights.”

Ottawa Frosh has not changed the course of 101 Week, which the SFUO has been organizing since May and will accommodate roughly 4,000 new students, Hamoud said.

Lopez insists his event is safe. He said the events will have private security “for specific hours of the day during which we may deem it a necessary precaution.” Students will also have to sign a liability waiver when they pick up their kits.

“All of the students in our frosh week will be 18+,” Aficionado’s press release said. “They are adults and we expect them to act as such.”

According to the Ottawa Citizen, two ByWard Market nightclubs, Tequila Jacks and Dodge City, have cut all ties to Aficionado.

The company has also been accused of taking frosh footage from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta and using it in their own videos.

“I just want to very staunchly say that our student union does not condone the actions portrayed by this video,” Sean Glydon, president of the University of Lethbridge’s Student Union, told the Lethbridge Herald. “We’re at the point where we’d like this to fade into obscurity.”

Despite all this, Ottawa Frosh has sold more than half of its 500 kits as of Aug. 6. The events are set to begin Aug. 31.

“The concept was to give them an idea of what young adulthood outside the classroom can be like, that it’s OK to be silly and make mistakes and also have a blast while doing it,” Lopez told the CBC. “If your young adult life doesn’t contain any mistakes or sex or drinking, that’s your issue.”


Watch the video interview between Jarett Lopez and Desnoyers by clicking here.


Watch the Afficionado Ottawa Frosh 2014 Promotional Trailer