Looking at the changing
face of O-Week
By Kelly Marcella and Maggie Wrobel
|WHERE'S MY WATER WINGS? University
Students' Council President Paul Yeoman was soaked when
dropped into the dunk-tank on Concrete Beach, fulfilling
every students fantasy to see a politician in hot water.
Orientation Week - some would argue what used
to be the epitome of the "college" experience has
in many ways faded to a shadow of its former self.
With the onslaught of the double cohort, the
first-year class participating in this year's O-Week activities
has been the largest ever accommodated at Western. As a result,
O-Week has undergone many structural and organizational changes
to help facilitate the transition to university life for this
younger incoming class.
Changes to O-Week are nothing new, as every
year the program is reassessed in hopes of improving the frosh
experience. The entire program has been dry (alcohol free) since
2000, which has helped in accommodating the younger first-year
class this year.
This past year, the formation of the Orientation
Strategic Planning Group - consisting of members of the university's
administration and the University Students' Council - has made
a concerted attempt to formalize and improve these changes on
a larger level.
With all of the changes being implemented,
the question arises - are frosh getting the "real"
university experience or are they being shortchanged?
"We don't want to sanitize O-Week,"
said USC President Paul Yeoman, noting all those involved in
the program's planning want to ensure safety for the students.
"There is definitely an effort to sanitize
the introduction to university as much as possible to make it
safe," said Chris Sinal, an OSPG member, current Huron
University College soph and former USC president. "However
the pendulum has already swung so far that we create this environment
where swearing doesn't exist, alcohol doesn't exist and sex
Susan Grindrod, associate vice-president of
housing and ancillary services, said with the size of the incoming
first year class, changes had to be made to accommodate these
students. She added that given the age of the incoming class,
alcohol accessibility was a major concern for administration.
Grindrod stated there are a growing number
of student leaders that offer excellent guidance for first-year
The changes to this year's O-Week coincide
with the upcoming release of the OSPG's final report. According
to Matt Huether, USC VP-student affairs, the focus of this year's
O-Week was on building communities. In past years, relations
between administration and the USC have been strained, however
Huether said both sides have attempted to keep communication
lines open and work together.
Problems in last year's program, such as the
potential elimination of faculty sophs from O-Week programming,
have been resolved with faculty sophs paired with small groups
of students instead of specific residence floors. Also, for
the first time residence staff have been asked to participate
in O-Week activities in an attempt to improve relations between
the USC-directed sophs and the Housing employees.
Huether said at first there was some resistance
from sophs about the introduction of residence staff to O-Week
activities, but he has not yet heard any complaints.
According to Yeoman, many of the changes in
the structure of Orientation activities have been put into place
due to safety and liability issues.
Some of these changes seem to echo the current
trend of regulating most university sponsored events with stricter
new rules, as exemplified by last year's introduction of the
controversial Alcohol Policy. Over the course of the past few
years, events such as the infamous "Engineering Movie Night"
have been eliminated from O-Week programming.
According to Sinal, student leaders are as
responsible as administration is for the "sanitization"
of O-Week activities. "Sophs look at frosh during O-Week
like children," he said, comparing the week to a camp-like
"[Frosh] are younger and are more naive.
I don't feel like I'm babysitting but at times I feel like I'm
mothering them," said health sciences soph and third-year
student Jessica Summerfield, adding she thought frosh are too
young to get the whole "university" experience.
First-year kinesiology student Anne Wagner
said she has had a good O-Week experience, noting everyone involved
has been helpful and encouraging.
The release of the upcoming OSPG report will
help determine the direction of future O-Weeks from those in
charge of its organization. "Only by listening to [frosh]
will we know if [the changes are] working," Sinal noted.