Page 1

The Varsity » How your frosh week happens



14-03-24 1:37 AM





The University of Toronto's Student Newspaper Since 1880










How your frosh week happens This year’s orientation coordinators share a behind-thescenes look at putting together what some students call the ‘best week of the year’

By Karen Zhou Published: 12:29 am, 5 September 2013 under Features

Page 1 of 6

The Varsity » How your frosh week happens

14-03-24 1:37 AM




Tweet 0 /b9c


t’s the tail-end of summer, a time when students scramble to soak up those precious last rays of sunshine before school dictates their sleeping schedules once again. Nevertheless, every summer, more than a thousand upper-year U of T students trade in their carefree vacation time to organize the biggest student-run, campuswide event of the year: Frosh Week. Although the process of hiring orientation staff differs from college to college, each orientation committee is usually comprised of a pair of orientation coordinators (OCs) — who are, in effect, Frosh Week CEOs of their respective colleges — a small group of orientation executives (who function as VPs), and a large population of frosh

Contributor Karen Zhou

Related Stories Page 2 of 6

The Varsity » How your frosh week happens

leaders (who actualize the plans put in place by the OCs and execs). Being in charge of over 20 executives and 100 frosh leaders is an immense responsibility in and of itself, but this year’s OC teams did not seem too fazed while being interviewed by The Varsity.

14-03-24 1:37 AM

“Dry” frosh week? Well, technically. Frosh Week poorly planned, say colleges Whose frosh week is it anyway? Its frosh week in the suburbs too Stricter Alcohol Policies in Frosh Week

The hiring process Typically, prospective co-chairs have to present an immensely detailed proposal, describing their ideas for Frosh Week, to a college committee as well as undergo a series of interviews. This process can be quite time-consuming and demanding. Simon Erlich of Innis College explains why he was attracted to the OC role: “It’s such a once-in-a-lifetime experience; I mean, how often will you have the opportunity to do something on this sort of scale? Being able to work with this diverse group of people, and having a lot of opportunities in terms of sponsorship — so it’s very characterbuilding.” Once selected, the co-chairs begin the process of hiring leaders and an executive staff. Competition is tough, as many students apply for these positions. “We tried to professionalize the whole process and evaluate candidates with an objective eye,” emphasizes Elizabeth Wong of University College, “and our scoring scheme weighs the written application, interview performance, and creative component equally, so that everyone has a chance to shine.” The Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering boasts an orientation team of 400 student volunteers, headed by Vivek Kesarwani. Kesarwani attributes the number of leaders to a general enthusiasm and fondness for Frosh Week, given the positive experience most upper-years associate with it. “Frosh Week, being the biggest and first faculty-wide event, is something people get attached to. [Upper-year students] know the value of Frosh Week, and they want to give back. It’s actually part of our mission statement to encourage froshies to become leaders.” Victoria College’s Jenny Pazio and Komal Minhas became OCs for the same reason. “Remembering what it was like to be in the shoes of an incoming commuter student three years ago and now knowing that we’ve been able to contribute and make this year’s orientation a possibility is really the greatest part about the role,” says Pazio Each orientation committee runs on the strength of the combined effort and talent of its team members. New College looked for individuals who are great team workers. OC and New College Student Council vice-president, administration Craig Maniscalco notes that “communication is key. You have to be able to communicate with the teams and leaders who are supporting you, communicate with the rest of the execs, communicate with third parties and with the university.” The Woodsworth orientation committee, for instance, is comprised of a group of community leaders that have been involved with the college previously. Johnathan Warda and Genevieve Nixon of Woodsworth College planned the college’s Frosh Week for the third time this year. In the end, the combination of orientation members

Page 3 of 6

The Varsity » How your frosh week happens

14-03-24 1:37 AM

has less to do with each person’s individual traits and more to do with how said person functions in a network of people.

Fostering inclusivity One obstacle every orientation team faces is dispelling the common misconception that Frosh Week is an outrageous, week-long drinking party. Ben Le of University College recounts the numerous times parents have come up to him during the college’s Welcome Days to ask about drinking protocols and the hazing situation. “I assure them hazing has been banned for years. People think Frosh Week is this huge alcohol and sex fest. That’s not the trend at UC; you don’t do anything you are not comfortable with.” Erlich recalls receiving a phone call from a student who asked, “whether it’s a good idea to come to Frosh Week when his girlfriend goes to another university.” Ryan Lamer, Erlich’s orientation cochair, blames the false portrayal of Frosh Week as a no holdsbarred, giant party on popular media. “We have a dry Frosh Week at Innis,” Lamer states, “and beyond the social events we have, a large part of our schedule is taken up by academic- and orientationbased activities.” Lamer goes on to outline another conundrum: “What happens with probably every single college is that everyone shows up on the first day and then by Thursday, half of them are gone. You have the commuters who might have to travel 1.5 hours to get to campus, and it’s hard for them to get up super early every morning.” Trinity College’s orientation co-chairs Allison Spiegel, Mikhail Amyn, and Katherine Hales acknowledge the issue of exhausted and disoriented frosh. The solution, they say, is to offer students the chance to breathe and relax by inserting scheduled breaks throughout Frosh Week. Allison elaborates: “There does need to be time for an international student to go and set up a bank account; a student on residence needs to have time to get groceries. Those are really important things everyone needs to figure out, particularly before classes start, because once they begin it’s incredibly overwhelming.” Judging by their programming, the other colleges have come to a similar realization. The consensus among the various colleges and faculties this year is to facilitate an accessible and inclusive environment throughout Frosh Week. Now in his fourth season of overseeing Frosh Week across all three campuses, Student Life Coordinator Josh Hass noticed a trend across the various colleges’ programming, noting that the focus of this year’s orientation is to cater “to [some] frosh who are extroverted and [some] frosh who are introverted.” Some of the colleges have even organized orientations specifically for students who do not want to participate in the louder, higher energy events. Woodsworth College offers the Woodsworth Orientation for Life after Frosh (WOLF) program — a series of sessions, workshops, and events geared towards students who are interested in strictly orientation-related activities. Nixon explains:

Page 4 of 6

The Varsity » How your frosh week happens

14-03-24 1:37 AM

“One-third of our student population are mature students, so our WOLF programming — which is more focused on academics and health — reflects the fact that we are catering to all incoming frosh, not just those fresh out of high school.”

Role of leaders Olivia Birch of New College was adamant that new students should have the best possible introduction to university life, beginning with frosh leaders. “It all comes down to giving our frosh the most personalized, useful, and engaging experience… We also want our 125+ leaders to be a continual support system for incoming students, so we are making sure that support and guidance are available to students even after Frosh Week.” With such a large frosh population to cater to, Kesarwani is “trying to make the leader-to-frosh ratio manageable — roughly 1:5 — [so that] it is easy for the leader to bond with his/her entire group and make sure everyone is being taken care of.” Katrina Kim from St. Michael’s College is similarly concerned about giving students the opportunity to bond with their frosh leaders. “We have 165–175 leaders, and each group will have roughly 25–30 froshies. We wanted to keep the frosh-to-leader ratio manageable. It’s all about recognition and about faces.” According to Hass, the OCs’ proactive dedication to making sure every student is taken care of has brought the colleges and faculties together. On September 3, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, Innis College, St. Michael’s College, New College, University College, and Woodsworth College are all attending the Toronto Argonauts football game — a total of some 5,000 students, fully a tenth of the Rogers Centre’s capactity. An intercollegiate event of this scale has rarely occurred outside of the annual U of T Downtown Parade and infamous bed races. “Frankly, those two events have always felt like competitive events, not cooperative events,” says Maniscalco. “This year we have the Argos game, and I think that is the defining highlight of our year.”

Managing the crowd As orientation plans get bigger, OCs feel that it has gotten harder to stay on top of what each member of their team is doing. According to Amyn, the question, “Is everybody doing what they are supposed to be doing?” is among the most nerve-wracking. Spiegel expands: “the perfect parallel to explain that feeling is being a parent who hasn’t heard from their child in a couple of weeks and thinking, ‘Are they going to class? Did they eat today? Is everything OK?’ We do need to know what’s going on, but we also want all our execs to bring themselves to their positions, because that’s why we brought them on board.” Kim also noted the difficulty of trying to coordinate plans and communicate information with such a large group: “Staffing is the hardest because you have to get that many people on the same

Page 5 of 6

The Varsity » How your frosh week happens

14-03-24 1:37 AM

page,” she said, “sometimes they don’t understand the amount of work that we’ve been doing behind-the-scenes.” For the Engineering frosh, this concern is even bigger; in fact, Kesarwani’s role is not to plan specific events, but to receive information and disseminate it to the right people. “Some would say that our Frosh Week has gotten too big because it’s someone’s job to do this,” Kesarwani smiles, “but we all bond to create Frosh Week for our 1,100 incoming students.” A lot of work goes into making Frosh Week happen, but it’s all for the benefit of the incoming students — as much fun as frosh executive teams may have along the way. Wong notes: “We need a team that is selfless, because ultimately Frosh Week isn’t about [us], it’s about [the] … students coming in.”

ALSO ON THE VARSITY Voting hours extended at UTM due to weather closure 2 comments

Exploring computer coding as an art form 1 comment

University needs to lay stronger foundations for graduating … 1 comment

Uncertainty remains after unofficial UTSU elections results announced 4 comments


The Varsity


Sort by Newest



Start the discussion…

Be the first to comment.


Add Disqus to your site

Like You, Shannon MacInnes and 2,570 others like this.

News Comment Features Arts & Culture Science Sports

Advertise Volunteer Board of Directors Contact Masthead and Staff

Varsity Video Varsity Magazine Student Handbook Newspaper Issues

Page 6 of 6

The Varsity » how your frosh week happens  

Long form feature article