The uproar over chants suggesting the rape of underage girls has brought widespread condemnation of universities’orientation week and the excess it spawns. Readers, print and digital, weigh in: Is it time to end frosh week?
Re School Spirit Is Pointless – It’s Time To End The Frosh-Week Tradition (Sept. 12): Russell Smith clearly did not enjoy orientation week – not everyone does. But things have changed a great deal since he was at Queen’s University. To paint all orientation with the brush of his experience is unfair and inaccurate. Orientation week is a positive, welcoming experience – everything is voluntary, there are time restrictions on events, and significant training and risk management take place.
It is wrong to say that “the best students don’t participate in the rah-rah hysteria.” I participated in my orientation, and over the rest of my time at Queen’s was an orientation leader, the head of Concurrent Education orientation, and Orientation Roundtable Co-ordinator, overseeing all undergraduate orientation. I was also on the Dean’s Honour List every year, graduated with distinction, and am now in graduate school at an Ivy League university. I like to think I was a pretty good student – and my participation in orientation week only made me better.
Rachel Shindman, Ithaca, N.Y.
Right on, Russell Smith. I dropped off a nervous 18-year-old at Queen’s University one chilly morning several years ago. We were horrified to be met by gangs of leather-jacketed thugs yelling “Frosh, go home!” I was even more shocked to learn that these were the engineers and this was their customary welcome.
Frosh week is elitist and exclusionary: The point is to increase the sense of specialness between the new recruits and the ones who didn’t get in.
Sarah Reynolds, Toronto
Is frosh week really about school spirit, or is it about 17- and 18-year-olds entering a new environment, with increased independence? The partying, the making of new relationships (friends and enemies) happens whether the schools facilitate it or not.
Jim Lochhead, Edmonton
The antics at orientation week seem to be a common occurrence in a number of universities. This degradation of women or men has no place in our society. There should be a policy of zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour, with sanctions in place to ensure it does not happen.
By remaining quiet and doing nothing, we are as guilty as the people doing these barbaric acts.
Riaz Damji, Guelph, Ont.
I went through frosh week at Queen’s University the year after Russell Smith. I had the highest grades in first-year engineering. Unlike Mr. Smith’s offensive stereotype that “everyone knows the best students are hiding in their rooms,” I participated fully in frosh week – right down to unofficially organizing our grease-pole climb. I went from being a no-name geek in high school to suddenly having 200 of my (much cooler) peers following my instructions.
Moreover, I went from being a social outsider in high school to being part of a community, thanks to the enforced socializing of frosh week. Frosh week gave me an opportunity for social growth that no classroom experience could do. It should be kept, precisely to benefit those Mr. Smith stereotyped!
Kamal Hassan, Toronto
I agree with Margaret Wente that a much-touted “rape culture” is no more pervasive in the halls of academe than any other place in contemporary Canadian society (Rape On Campus – Is It An Epidemic? – Sept. 12).
Hardly a reassuring observation if you are female, given the persistent gap observed between the number of sexual-offence occurrences reported by women, versus criminal convictions obtained, but those constituencies now fanning the moral-panic fires on the basis of puerile, brain-cramped but isolated frosh-week examples waste valuable bandwidth.
Bryan Davies, Whitby, Ont.
The pro-rape chants at Saint Mary’s University and the University of British Columbia are disgusting in the extreme.
But perhaps our criticisms of frosh week should be more nuanced than censuring frosh week wholesale, lest we succumb to the very mindless conformism that we’re trying to avoid.
Bryan Heystee, Halifax
“Having fun” doesn’t mean drowning in beer and singing about raping underage girls. I was able to have all kinds of fun without any of that.
I was accused of having no school spirit, and I had hordes of people trying to ram alcohol down my throat (I was underage at the time, but that of course meant nothing). After two days of these festivities, my roommate and I opted out. Didn’t seem to hurt either of us.
Ken Breadner, Waterloo, Ont.
Can you really end a week-long event across the country because of the decisions and judgment of a few individuals? Evaluating the situation within each institution would be a better place to start.
Without my first-year frosh week, I wouldn’t have met my two best friends.
To get a quality formal education, you need a base and orientation/frosh week is part of that base. It taught me to be a better leader and team player.
Amanda Levy, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
ON REFLECTION More letters to the editor
Where is the protest?
As the crisis builds over the PQ’s proposed Quebec Charter of Values, where is the visceral reaction we saw for the tuition “crisis”? Why aren’t thousands of people marching for an issue far more fundamental than tuition? I’m shocked that the removal of basic rights hasn’t caused a bigger stir.
Pauline Marois won’t understand how we really feel until she stops reading about the opposition in papers and starts seeing it in throngs of people on Ste. Catherine Street. She won’t understand until she hears the clang of pots and pans.
Sam Skinner, Pointe Claire, Que.
Curing medical mistakes
Re Bring In National Oversight, Experts Say (Sept. 13): Misdiagnoses happen in at least 10 per cent of medical cases in Canada, yet this is rarely spoken of or addressed. Patients must be encouraged to ask questions and seek a second or even third opinion. Policy-makers must encourage hospitals to collect and examine misdiagnosis data to prevent mistakes.
Patients, providers, employers and policy-makers must com-mit to life-saving adjustments the system lacks, or we can only expect more of the same.
Robin Cooper, Best Doctors, Canada
400 million years
Re How To Deal With Tonnes Of Nuclear Waste: Bury The Problem (Sept. 13): Science has greatly advanced our understanding of groundwater and contaminant transport. Nowhere more so than at the proposed deep geologic repository at the Bruce nuclear plant site near Lake Huron.
The proposed nuclear-waste-disposal site hosts some of the most impermeable rock formations known to exist. The groundwater has not moved from these formations for some 300 to 400 million years.
Ian Clark, professor of earth sciences, University of Ottawa
A prince’s priorities
Re Prince William To Leave The Military, Will Focus On Helping Endangered Species (Sept. 13): With his worldwide recognition and respect, I’d have hoped he might have as his principal focus endangered humankind, with endangered species his second priority. With the extent of child poverty, crippling diseases and global warming, he should follow his mother’s interests, or take a page out of Bill Gates and Bill Clinton’s playbook and commit to their kind of humanitarian causes as his key focus. Now there would be a formidable team.
Jerry Diakiw, Markham, Ont.Report Typo/Error
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