A healthy dose of competition?

ASUS Head Gael and EngSoc president discuss current attitudes towards interfaculty rivalries

Jacket “slamming”, a popular engineering tradition, is not intended to intimidate others, EngSoc President says.
Jacket “slamming”, a popular engineering tradition, is not intended to intimidate others, EngSoc President says.

As one of Canada’s oldest universities, Queen’s is known for its traditions.

Whether it be the tamming ceremony, the football game or group chants of Oil Thigh, Queen’s students spend much of their frosh week engaged in tried and true traditions from generations past.

Among these traditions is the customary rivalry that takes place year after year between faculties. For many, frosh week is a time not only to celebrate being a Queen’s student, but also to celebrate why Commerce is inherently better than all other faculties, or why Nursing is where it’s at. Like many Queen’s traditions, interfaculty rivalries go way back. In the 1960s, editorials in the Journal chastised male Engineering students for being wild and unruly, while suggesting that female students should instead set their sights on students of Medicine and Law.

A story that appeared in the Journal in Sept. 1963 declared that “[e]ver since the Engineering Faculty at Queen’s came into existence, Engineers have been struggling to assert their equality (superiority?) over their arch-rival – the Faculty of Arts and Science.” Engineering Society (EngSoc) President Victoria Pleavin, Sci ’11, said she thinks interfaculty rivalries can be healthy and enjoyable when done in a positive way.

“I find rivalries to be both fun and necessary. On both sides of any rivalry you see a lot more activity, change and excitement than you would by an unchallenged group,” she said. “This in turn leads to an increased dedication to things like school spirit, academics, athletics and to Queen’s as a whole.”

Pleavin said she thinks rivalries only go too far when friendly competition turns to putting down other faculties.

“I have found over my years at Queen’s that any of these negative attitudes are broken by the time that students reach their later years here and have created lifelong friendships that span across all faculties,” she said, adding that EngSoc discourages negative chants geared towards other faculties.

A famous Engineering tradition is “slamming”, which involves groups of engineers taking off their jackets and beating them against the ground. Slamming “at” people is also discouraged, Pleavin said.

“Slamming is never supposed to be done to intimidate others,” she said. “Slamming should be done for respect and celebration, hence why it is done during highland games during frosh week and after final exams during fall term.”

Pleavin said EngSoc frosh often engage in friendly activities or competitions with students in other faculties during frosh week, especially Nursing and Commerce students.

“Nursing regularly participates in our frosh week, having in the past come out to the greasepole,” she said. “More recently, [they have] become the person to protect from thundersludge during thundermugs.”

“We also have the Great Engineering Cheer Off (GECO) with Commerce,” she added. “This has evolved to being a more positive battle in boasting what is great about your faculty.”

Pleavin said she thinks faculty pride and rivalries with other faculties give engineering frosh a chance to bond with each other and potentially make new friends.

“It definitely gives frosh who ... have not necessarily made friends yet something to talk about and a banner to unite behind,” she said. “I find it comparable to how strangers suddenly became friends as they cheered for the same team during the World Cup or would enter into friendly banter with someone wearing the shirt of a rival team this past summer.”

Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) Head Gael Robin Bond, ArtSci ’11, said ASUS has a slightly different attitude towards interfaculty rivalry.

Bond said ASUS holds the position that Frosh Week should focus more on university pride than campus pride, and for that reason, inter-faculty rivalry is discouraged Frosh Week.

“Because we are such a large faculty, ... it’s really important for us to be accommodating and inclusive to everybody, because we have such a multitude of different people,” he said.

Bond said he thinks it’s natural for students to be proud of their faculty, but fears that some students may take it too far.

“It would be somewhat ignorant of the situation to assume that nobody’s ever going to have expectations that it’s going to be competitive,” Bond said, adding that ASUS has been trying to get the word out on their view on inter-faculty competition.

“I think people maybe expect some of it but what I would say is we are taking a lot of steps to ensure that it’s not happening as much,” he said.

Like EngSoc, ASUS discourages negative cheers. Gaels are trained to discourage such behaviour, Bond said.

ASUS strives to celebrate their pride in Queen’s as a whole, rather than their simply pride as Arts and Science students, he added.

“You come to Queen’s and you’re told this is one of the best and brightest schools in Canada,” he said. “So from our end, it really doesn’t make sense to then say we’re the …the best university in Canada, except for all the other faculties. They’re awful, but we’re the best. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Interfaculty rivalries may have tamed over the years, but a Journal article from 1962 shows evidence that not much has changed about the overall purpose of Frosh Week. As the writer of the story put it, the “programmes all strove for pride and school spirit. One of the primary goals, however, was to have a good time.”

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