Op-Ed

The controversy over Ottawa’s new privately run frosh week is overblown

Ottawa’s new privately run frosh week has some people in a tizzy, but critics of this rival operation may not realize that it holds some real benefits for new students.

For the last couple of weeks, the promotional campaign for Aficionado Studios’ new privately run frosh week has pissed off some people, including the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO). They have said that Aficionado’s promotional campaign is needlessly sexualized and seems to glorify binge drinking, drug use, and other “reckless behaviour.”

I’ve seen the trailer for Aficionado Studios’ frosh week, and I think the event it’s promoting is a great idea. Finally, there’s an independent company challenging the SFUO for student dollars they may have otherwise taken for granted.

Consumers now have greater choice for their orientation week packages: Do they want a student-funded, faculty-separated 101 Week; an underfunded alternative of somewhat lesser quality; or a city-wide, privately owned frosh week that gathers students from every post-secondary school in the city?

Competition increases the quality of the purchases since each organization has something to fight for. The university has a reputation to uphold, while the independent company has something to prove. This isn’t something the U of O asked for at all, but I think it’s exactly what these new students need.

In terms of the controversy surrounding the images used in Aficionado’s promotional campaign, the whole thing is overblown.

As a participant of 101 Week in 2012, I can say that what Aficionado appears to be promising in their “racy” promotional ads isn’t too radically different from what actually occurs during the SFUO events. From what I remember, there were raucous concerts, wild drinking excursions to clubs in Hull, and even more alcohol fueled parties in the backwoods of Quebec. We were taught a number of jovial cheers that were mostly sexualized. And, of course, there was that one idiot who got way too high or drunk and ruined the night by throwing up everywhere.

Aficionado is just being more upfront about the activities that usually take place during frosh week, with the intent for students to learn their limits right away rather than when it’s too late. Sure, the original trailer they posted may have been sensational, but that’s the point: to get people excited, talking, and learning from their experiences — even if it’s the hard way. This is a much more honest business policy, especially when parents don’t want to look on TV or online and admit the ugly truth of what can happen at university.

I can’t say that what goes on at the SFUO branded events this year will be the same as what I experienced two years ago, nor can I accurately predict how students will react to these new frosh week offerings from Aficionado. But in the end, it’s the students who will determine what happens at these upcoming events, and that fact will always be the same.