No “frosh” for more academic O-Week

There are some choice words that seem to come to mind when students hear the term ‘frosh’. Wilfrid Laurier University’s Students’ Union (WLUSU), organizers of Orientation Week, want to steer away from certain undertones associated with the expression.

“We don’t call it ‘frosh week’ anymore for a reason,” said Burton Lee, WLUSU vice president of clubs and activities. “We don’t even allow our ice breakers to use the terms ‘frosh’ or ‘kids’”, added April Bannerman, assistant vice president of first-year experience at WLUSU.

Bannerman, a fifth-year global studies and communications major, hopes that WLUSU’s Orientation Week will prepare first-year students for the entire Laurier experience and not just the social aspects. While universities including the University of Waterloo have reduced the length of their orientations, WLUSU has instead opted to introduce new ‘learning outcomes’ to the O-Week festivities in hopes of creating a more balanced orientation experience.

The learning outcomes are divided into three sections: academic, leadership, and social. Every aspect of the week is geared towards those outcomes. On top of the more traditional social orientation events, WLUSU is using O-Week 2010 to emphasize the importance of the mandatory academic sessions Friday during which professors speak and give more of a sense of what will be expected of students. “They’re mandatory in the sense that it’s the most important thing offered during the week in our eyes,” Lee explained.

Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG) has organized an alternative orientation week choice for students running independently of the WLUSU activities, though students will still be encouraged to attend the academic sessions. ‘Radical O-Week’ exists, according to the event’s co-ordinator Hannah Swiderski, “to provide an option for first-year students, because a lot of students don’t like to participate in the events that WLUSU plans.” She added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with them.”

Radical O-Week includes concerts and workshops and last year attracted roughly 50 students, according to Swiderski, who added that this year is “going to be a lot bigger” and she hopes will attract a few hundred participants. The number of volunteers involved for the event will also increase substantially from 10 last year to “between forty and sixty,” Swiderski said.

O-Week runs with the help of over 500 student volunteers. The group consists of 256 ice breakers as well as student organizations and service groups. WLUSU is confident that these volunteers can act as mentors to first-years as well as leaders.

O-Week has always been considered a transition week from high school to university. This year, WLUSU is hoping that the week displays a more accurate depiction of university life.
“After O-Week is finished, the real struggle is the adjustment from O-Week to real university life,” Lee said, noting that students face “a real adjustment,” balancing O-Week levels of social engagement once classes start.

As for the “frosh” moniker, Lee said, “It seems to only be community members that call it that now.”

“Students aren’t coming in with the mentality that they’ll get sloshed or anything like that,” he speculated, “Which is nice, but I know that obviously still happens and that’s the way some students become comfortable here.”

“They’re going to do what they want to do and we’re not trying to babysit anyone,” he said.

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