Week critique

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I consider Frosh Week a highlight of the school year, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Four years ago, my first week on campus was transformative. I made close friends in my frosh group – one of whom became my housemate for two years – and my Gaels helped me feel at home immediately.

Unfortunately, not everyone has this experience, and it’s time more Queen’s students recognize this.

When Russell Smith, a former Queen’s student, wrote an op-ed in the Globe and Mail two weeks ago criticizing our school’s Frosh Week and school spirit, many students were up in arms.

These students had a right to be upset. Smith’s editorial portrayed some of our orientation events unfairly as many of them have significantly changed since his graduation.

Last Friday, Queen’s TV released a video rebuttal to Smith’s anti-Frosh Week sentiment, featuring students reciting a scripted response. The clip is addressed to Smith, and rightly points out his factual inaccuracies and unfair assumptions.

What made me cringe, though, was the way that Smith’s personal experience was dismissed in a condescending way.

“We’re sorry you had an unfortunate Frosh Week,” a group of students say in the clip. The last speaker in the video points out that Frosh Week is optional, “so there’s that.”

Is this really the message we want to send to people who didn’t enjoy their Frosh Week? What if there are people on campus right now who don’t feel at home and silently agree with Smith?

If it were me, I’d feel uncomfortable and even more alienated after watching the video.

It concerns me that the spirit of the video reflects an unfortunate truth: that the mass of our student body finds it nearly impossible to accept criticism of our university’s traditions and practices.

The article should have started a discussion about inclusivity, alternative frosh events and resources for those who are having a hard time calling Queen’s their home.

Smith deserves to be corrected for his errors and misconceptions, but we should also think seriously about his experience.

We need to start listening to others – even if what they say isn’t what we want to hear.

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