Volume 92, Issue 10
Friday, September 18, 1998
Welcome to Country Club U
By Jael Lodge & Chris Costello
"Country Club U?" "Party School?" "The University of Wealthy Ontarians"? These are stereotypes that have been attached to Western long before Maclean's magazine labelled it as such in the 1993 University guide.
"I heard it was a clique school," says first-year administrative and commerical studies student Jeff Warren. "A school for wealthy people. A school for those who want a good party."
First-year kinesiology student Sarah Otoupal concurs with Warren saying that her image of Western before she arrived was "Western was a party school and you won't get any work done."
Is the image true? Is it merely the work of jealous students from other schools who couldn't make the Western cut?
"I think it all dates back to the fact that we're built on the old golf course," said Peter Hill, VP-campus issues for the University Students' Council. Hill is referring to the fact that the site was home to the London Hunt and Country Club golf course from 1885 to 1959.
He also points to the '60s and '70s as the time when the reputation for heavy partying developed. "I think people's perception of their university careers was different," he says, noting that the tuition of the era was much lower. "Now that tuition is quite high, people tend to be more balanced.
"We party no more than they do at [The University of British Columbia] and no less than at Laurier."
VP-administration Peter Mercer cites "the other thing is that Western is a large university in a small community.
Mercer considers both stereotypes to be outdated, pointing to the fact that Western has the highest number of OSAP recipients per capita among Ontario universities. "Maclean's has some effect for sure. It all too readily reinforces what I think is an inappropriate stereotype."
The number of fraternities and sororities that call Western home is an undisputed factor of Western's reputation. Unlike some universities which have no or very few such organizations, Western has six sororities and 20 fraternities recognized by the Inter-fraternity Council. Although frats especially have an "animal house" reputation by name alone, things may not always be as wild as reputed.
"Pranks from time to time have occurred at frat houses, yet I've never dealt with anyone involved in jeopardizing personal safety," says Sgt. John O'Flaherty of the London City Police
"Pranks are part of the name of the game at frat houses from what I understand."
Jason Shoemaker, of the IFC points out the partying image of the fraternities is something that may change over the next few years. "Within five years, half the frats will be alcohol free," he says. The elitist image is also something that Shoemaker doesn't agree with. "There is a different frat for everyone in terms of diversity."
Shoemaker also points out that some of the more infamous incidents related to the frats, such as one frat leaving a dead sheep on another's doorstep last year, are not condoned and result in penalties to those involved, including expulsion from the IFC.
"It's not just us," he says, suggesting other clubs and organizations pull pranks and hold parties. As far as the elitist reputation that frats hold, Shoemaker says he thinks the "rich" image is definitely off track.
The particular impression of Western's perceived atmosphere is pointed out by Allison Loap, a member of Queen's University Alma Mater Society. "We haven't had frats and sororities here since the 1920s," she says. "It's not part of our culture." Loap also notes, however, that Queen's is often referred to as "one large frat."
So party school or serious academic facility? Warren admits that Western hasn't lived up to its stereotypes so far. "The image portrayed was not as it seemed. It's a lot friendlier, more comfortable and has lived up to its reputed name but not its rumoured one.
"When I told people I was pursuing my academics at Western they said 'Oh, you're going to the snob school,'" says Stephen West, another first-year ACS student.
In order to combat this stereotype, Mercer says Western is engaged in campaigns to educate applicants and their parents about the true nature of Western.
"We have to take responsibility for our own reputation," Mercer says.
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