My gael was never my soul mate

Where all the faculty animosity began.
Where all the faculty animosity began.
Sayyida Jaffer, Comm '05
Sayyida Jaffer, Comm '05

Now that frosh week is up and running, those of you new to this campus—particularly the class of 2008—have undoubtedly had a chance to give it a feel. Maybe you love your frosh leaders and dream of one day participating in the same way, or maybe you’ve met your soul mate in your frosh group or a new best friend. Then again, maybe you haven’t.

I have no intention of putting a damper on frosh week. I think orientation is an essential event for the students of Queen’s, or any university for that matter. Hundreds of students and staff put in endless hours in order to create scheduled events that are fun, friendly, informative and safe.

I however, find it important to take a critical look at the orientation week you are facing right at this moment because you may be finding yourself less than enthused about your experience. In addition to this, the kind of indoctrination that occurs during frosh week can have long term implications for you and the years you spend at Queen’s.

Perhaps you have tried to engage others in your frosh group in some meaningful conversation to no avail. Perhaps you are not at all enjoying the events you have been participating in. Perhaps you would simply rather be exploring campus and Kingston by yourself or with a friend you met in residence—but perhaps you are afraid to undertake anything new that takes you away from the frenzy of orientation. And you have some reason to be. Orientation week is marketed to incoming students as the quintessential time of your life experience wrought with life-long friends and parties galore.

There really is no room in this perspective to acknowledge that orientation week is not for everyone. Some people do not consume alcohol or thrive in large groups, prevalent factors that dominate orientation week. While much effort has been made to improve the week in order to make it as accessible for all students as is realistic, it undoubtedly alienates some. For the alienated segment of the class of 2008, you have a right to be informed of the alternatives available to you in case frosh week isn’t your idea of a good time.

A handful of clubs or groups on campus organize their own orientation events, many of them during the week following frosh week. From the Ontario Public Interest Research Group of Kingston (OPIRG) to the Queen’s Muslim’s Students Association, there is most likely something out there for everyone. Be sure to look out for more information during the ASUS Sidewalk Sale today on University Avenue.

Then again, maybe you would prefer to discover Queen’s and Kingston on your own.

An Orientation week phenomenon I find dangerous is the fostering of faculty rivalries to an unhealthy degree. Three years ago, when I was a frosh, I recall chanting “McDonald's!” at ArtSci students while drawing a large “M” with my fingertips. This chant, among others, is what has stayed with me during my time at this University. I’ve never felt more embarrassed than I did at that moment. You are probably thinking I just take things too seriously and I need to lighten up and relax. You could be on the money—excuse the commie pun—but then again, you might not be farther from the truth. The divisions constructed during frosh week leave an impression that is almost impossible to break. I don’t blame other faculties for disliking commerce students. If someone chanted at me “that’s all right, that’s okay, you’re going to work for us someday,” I probably wouldn’t like them either. I went through a difficult time coming to terms with being disliked as a commerce student. After all, I am not right-wing and I am not interested in making loads of money, especially not at the expense of others. So why did people give me a condescending laugh when I told them I was taking commerce? For the same reason commerce students mock those in Arts and Science. We were taught that it was not only permissible to feel this way, but that we should feel this way. All of this we learned during our very first week at school. It would be unfair to hold orientation week solely responsible for this brainwashing as much of this culture does get reinforced in faculty societies.

My point is: be conscious of engaging in what you think is of interest to you. I encourage you to give orientation week a chance. It could end up being an incredibly positive experience for you. Just don’t be afraid to try something different. While everyone else may seem caught up in the buzz of frosh week, I think that if you ask some of your peers if they are having as good a time as they thought they would, you might very well discover that a lot of people feel just like you.

So where am I going with this convoluted mess of an argument? Simply, we have a problem that requires attention and awareness. I think orientation week should be less about conforming to faculty expectations for the purpose of promoting unity among Queen’s students. Frosh need to understand they won’t be shunned if they refuse to yell “virgins!” at a passing group of Engineers. After all, regardless of what program we are in, we have all chosen to attend an exceptional institution. Why not appreciate that this one fact unites us all?

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