Most members of the McGill community know about Frosh, the annual four-day event that welcomes new students to the University at the beginning of the academic year. But few are aware that a dedicated team begins planning Frosh months in advance – beginning well before the winter semester ends. In the following article, three student organizers give us a behind-the-scenes account of the hard work that has gone into the planning of Frosh 2020.
Frosh, an annual event that takes place in the four days before McGill University starts its fall semester, is often thought of as the last hurrah of summer. Despite taking place at the end of August, Frosh planning begins as early as March. We, the Frosh coordinators, are responsible for planning and implementing Frosh and we would like to offer the McGill community some insight into the six months of work we carry out every year in order to prepare for this annual event.
It all begins with the faculty and school associations’ elections in March. At this time, the student body elects the executives of their association, including the Vice President Internal, who is responsible for that year’s social events. (Some associations also call this position the VP Social or the VP Events.) The VP Internal immediately begins preparing for their faculty’s Frosh by selecting their coordinators, the team of 80 undergraduate students who together plan and implement Frosh.
There are high standards for selecting coordinators; candidates must complete an application and interview process and demonstrate that they have the skills, experience, and temperament to plan large-scale events, collaborate and work under pressure, and tend to the safety and wellbeing of their peers.
Each coordinator position has different responsibilities that they work on over the next several months. Some coordinators are tasked with logistics, sponsorship, and communications. Other coordinators focus on increasing sustainability and improving operations. Each faculty has a coordinator who is specifically tasked with addressing issues of inclusivity, yet it is expected that all Frosh coordinators integrate inclusivity, accessibility, equity, and safety into their work and planning.
One coordinator position, titled Chief of Staff, is in charge of hiring and overseeing Frosh leaders and staff, the upper-year students who lead small groups of incoming students and assist in event management. As was the case for coordinators, the hiring process for leaders and staff requires an application and an interview, and only the students who commit to providing and maintaining an environment that is safe and inclusive are selected. Of course, this is no easy task, as Frosh hires about 900 leaders and staff each year!
Adapting to COVID-19
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Frosh preparations have been a bit different this year, though we are still prioritizing accessibility, inclusivity, equity, and sustainability in all of our programming.
Orientation Week and Frosh will be completely virtual. This decision was made so as to be equitable and inclusive to the international students who would otherwise be excluded from participating due to travel restrictions.
As we think about accessibility, we have to think about students connecting from different time zones, the technology available to them, and the reliability of their internet connections. With inclusivity and equity in mind, we are developing activities that are of interest to a wide range of students while also working to ensure that our activities are welcoming to students of diverse identities, backgrounds, and languages. In doing so, we also consider the needs of diverse communities, including marginalized communities, to offer programming sensitive to the needs of all students and to connect students to resources, supports, and information that may be relevant to them.
Of course, by being virtual, we are promoting and supporting students’ health and safety.
Sustainability comes into our planning as we strive to be environmentally sustainable (reducing waste, minimizing our impact on the environment), economically sustainable (having a fair cost, offering bursaries, providing alternative options), and socially sustainable (developing strong and positive community relations, reducing emphasis on alcohol, teaching people about health and harm reduction).
Throughout our months of planning, we work with numerous offices at the University, including the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD); the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education (OSVRSE); the Office of the Dean of Students; the Student Wellness Hub, and Campus Life & Engagement. We partner with offices like these to receive feedback and guidance from professionals as we consider all aspects of the Frosh experience.
For example, we worked with the OSD to incorporate accessibility and equity into the registration process. When a new student registers for Frosh, there are opportunities for them to explain (if they so choose) any barriers they anticipate or may experience. Each faculty’s inclusivity coordinator receives that information and works closely with those students to ensure the supports and resources they require are available to them during Frosh.
We also partner with these offices to train Frosh coordinators, leaders, and staff. Last year, coordinators received about 35 hours of training, facilitated by experts from the OSD, OSVRSE, the Student Wellness Hub, and other McGill Offices. Coordinators from the different faculties then work with CL&E and others to co-develop the training given to leaders and staff, who receive about six hours of training. Although the training sessions this year will be facilitated through myCourses rather than in person, our focus is still on encouraging safe, healthy, and respectful relationships. Some topics we are repeating from last year include access and inclusion; equity and diversity; consent and sexual violence; and health and harm reduction. This year, we have developed new modules specific to our virtual context and the pandemic, such as training sessions on COVID-19 and safety; communicating and interacting online; and the resources and support available to McGill students.
As you can see, Frosh is the cumulation of months of planning and preparation by a variety of people who are passionate about creating an unforgettable and welcoming week for incoming students. We are excited for the opportunities virtual Frosh will present for the incoming class and we’re looking forward to welcoming the new students in August!