Frosh Week through the ages

Image supplied by: Journal File Photo
1980 frosh crew recover tam from the grease pole in 51 minutes.

Upper-year students welcoming first-years to campus is one of the oldest traditions at Queen’s. But for nearly as long as the tradition has existed, it’s been accompanied by discussion and debate regarding the role of hazing in these activities. 

Recent changes include the elimination of many faculty-specific cheers, the barring of upper-year students from intimidating first years on move-in day and the end of student government sanctioned parties involving alcohol consumption.

Some students question the need for change. In a 2010 article that appeared in Maclean’s Magazine, the magazine reported that students felt the week was “so low-key it threatened to dampen that famous Queen’s school spirit altogether”.

While the activities under fire are greatly different from Orientation Week events of the past, the debate remains the same.

Related: Frosh Week through the ages in pictures

As new policies limit the activities permitted by the University, critics of the new controls have argued that pushing students to the edge of their comfort zone is  necessary for meaningful group bonding. 

Meanwhile, defenders of those new policies argue that intense activities may alienate the most vulnerable members of the student body. 

The Journal has gathered a history of Orientation Week so you, the student, can decide for yourself.

Late 1800s: The first orientation events are introduced.

Early 1900s: “The Rush” is introduced. First-year students are forced to run across a football field while upper-year students throw rotten eggs, oils, dead animals, grease, decaying vegetables and mud at them.

1920s: Upper-year students lead first-years blindfolded and shoeless to Collins Bay. Those that found their way back across the 13 km distance and retrieved their shoes were allowed to call themselves Queen’s students.

1920s: First-year women are banned from wearing make-up and forced to wear a card around their necks listing their age, height, weight and address so upper-year male students could contact them. This practice remains in place until the 1970s.

1928: The AMS introduces standards for “acceptable hazing” into its constitution. 

1955: The grease pole tradition begins when Queen’s students attending a football game at the University of Toronto rush the field and steal the goal post. 

1960s: As second-wave feminism emerges, the University abolishes an early 20th century ritual intended to reveal to female students what their future husband’s profession would be. During the ritual, female student dripped candle wax onto tricolour ribbon, with each colour representing their future spouse’s profession.

1966: The Arts and Science course calendar and orientation handbook contains instructions demanding that frosh “have matches or a lighter at all times for lighting the cigarettes, cigars, and pipes of the [orientation week leaders]” and carry a rag at all times “for polishing shoes of the [Orientation Week leaders] upon request”. 

1969: The Journal publishes an editorial praising the use of “barbaric” physical hazing for its ability to “make the year into a closely knit group and to instill the proverbial ‘school spirit’”.

1971: Students vote in favour of keeping Orientation Week hazing activities in acampus-wide referendum.

1976: Female students participate in the grease pole event for the first time.

Early 1980s: Faculty of Arts and Science Frosh Week introduces the “Hallway of Hell”, in an attempt to transition Frosh Week traditions away from drugs and alcohol. First-years crawled in the dark across a floor smeared with cat food, pig ears, rotten food and dead fish, while upper-years smeared peanut butter in their hair and threw rotten eggs and buckets of flour on them.

1984: A Chief FREC — an Orientation Week leader in engineering — orders the inclusion of urine, vomit, cow heads, assorted animal guts and rotten tomatoes in the grease pole pit. 25 students are taken to the hospital as a result.

1989: Student debate whether coveralls bearing slogans such as “Fuck me, suck me, chew me raw” and “Lick it, slam it, suck it” endorse sexual assault. 

1989: The Faculty of Arts and Science replaces the “Hallway of Hell” with name games and trivia contests, which drew heavy mockery from other faculties. 

1991: An ad-hoc Senate committee publishes The Jackson Report in response to widespread controversy and concern over Queen’s orientation week. Their recommendations include ending AMS-sponsored alcoholic events, house crawls, and vulgar coverall slogans. 

As a result, faculty deans became increasingly involved in orientation week oversight, and Queen’s establishes the Senate Orientation Activities Review Board.

1997: Signs reading “Queen’s fathers: say goodbye to your daughter’s virginity!” and “Thank you Queen’s parents for dropping off your virgin daughters” are displayed along the 401, resulting in controversy and media attention.

Late 1990s: Students — some of them orientation leaders — carry signs on move-in day with slogans such as, “Go Down or Go Home” and “Don’t Forget Your Knee Pads”.

Late 2000s: Frosh leaders begin to sign contracts that include a promise to maintain frosh week as a dry event. Official frosh week house crawls are eliminated, and traditional “beer cheers” (cheers referring to alcohol consumption) are prohibited.


Frosh, Frosh Week, Grease Pole, hazing, Orientation Week

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