The Frosh Prince Takes First-Years to Bel-Arts

10 Sep, 2012

The Frosh Prince of Bel Arts took incoming Arts students on a 90s-themed weekend tour filled with new all-faculty events as well as frosh staples Beach Day and Pub Crawl.

In their second reorganization of Frosh in as many years, administrators and student leaders combined SSMU Frosh with individual faculty froshes, kickstarting the week with a SSMU-sponsored concert and effectively blurring the line between the two events. Dutch DJ R3HAB performed at a packed Terrasses Bonsecours on Tuesday night, with over 3,000 students from all faculties in attendance.

Amid recent concerns of the role of alcohol and sexual pressure in Frosh, a motion adopted on March 1, 2012 by the SSMU Legislative Council states that “SSMU be mandated to restructure SSMU Frosh model with the understanding that it currently fails to meet the SSMU’s goals,” and that “the SSMU take a leadership role by encouraging faculty associations to transform Faculty Froshes into a safe space for all students.”

Lagging SSMU frosh attendance was a concern when planning the new combined frosh. “This year we decided that we’d probably get higher participation on the last day if we combined faculty frosh with SSMU frosh,” said Arts Frosh Internal Coordinator Stephen Exel. “We worked very closely with [SSMU] this summer, and they were a great resource to have.”

The collaboration involved few changes, however. Registration fees for the two events were combined, and SSMU Frosh was not marketed as a separate event. “[SSMU] planned basically the same things they used to,” said AUS VP Events Josh Greenberg, citing shared resources like the beer tent and Beach Day.

Not all aspects of the closer SSMU collaboration were positive. Greenberg expressed some disappointment with SSMU’s dedicated operational staff. “Some of them were great, some of them were a complete disaster,” he said of their ability to help manage events.

AUS had its own team of 127 operational staff members, the most in the event’s history. Led by coordinators Natasha Fenn and Jonathan Carson, the staff set up and operated events throughout the week. Carson lauded the dedication of this year’s staff as one of the key reasons for frosh’s success. “In previous years, we’ve expected somewhere between 50-75% of any given O-staff schedule to show up for a shift, and this year we just had fantastic turnout rates.”

The Frosh Prince of Bel Arts began on Thursday with a monstrous Pub Crawl circuit that covered a variety of bars around campus. Classic drinking games at Bar des Pins, McKibbins Irish Pub, Café Campus, Muzique, Ivy and our very own Gerts Bar, among others, provided newly legal students with creative ways to imbibe.

Police presence increased noticeably in the McGill ghetto in anticipation of the raucousness to come during the week’s pre-drink parties. Law enforcement seemed tolerant of noise and ignored even the more vulgar chanting. However, they came down hard on those drinking in public and did not hesitate to issue tickets to partiers who had not yet had enough en route to Stereo, Thursday’s nightclub venue.

With Thursday’s late night events and the day’s inclement weather, Friday’s turnout was lower than expected. Luckily the rain cleared, so the afternoon’s inflatable castle carnival was unaffected. A variety of inflatable events were made available, including jousts, mazes, basketball and twister.

On Friday evening, participants descended on the Old Port for an evening boat cruise – a floating party that toured the Saint Lawrence river and provided scenic views of the Montreal skyline. The night’s club event at Arena, while well-attended, seemed overshadowed by the cruise.

Saturday’s Beach Day, by many accounts the most anticipated event of the week, was also the most challenging for organizers. Much like previous years, getting over 3000 participants to the beach proved a logistical nightmare. Frosh coordinators booked 26 buses to meet demand, but it still took hours to clear out of campus, with the last bus not leaving until well after 1pm.

Most agreed that the beach was a great time once they got there, adding sun, sand and swimming to the otherwise urban backdrop of Frosh.

The return to Montreal created similar transportation problems. One bus was so swamped by students trying to get in that the driver left without taking any passengers. Another became stuck in a ditch, and could not be moved despite the best efforts of students trying to help.

“There was a complete lack of a system, and that falls on everyone in the faculties and at SSMU,” said Greenberg. “Getting to beach day was difficult – getting back from Beach Day was even worse.”

Eventually, the coordinators managed to instill some order with the help of operational staff and Frosh leaders, and from then on the buses proceeded fairly smoothly.

Beach Day transportation is a persistent quagmire for Frosh organizers, yet none of the AUS coordinators interviewed for this article could suggest an alternative to the current operating procedure.

Back at campus, AUS first-years were provided with dinner courtesy of SmartBurger before heading out to prepare for a night at La Mouche and Telus Theater with Science and Management students. The alternative all-ages event – a Toga Party in the SSMU ballroom – was, according to one first-year student “pretty cool, for an all-ages thing.”

The final day of Frosh was noticeably more relaxed than the previous three. Piknic Electronik played host to exhausted first-years and their hoarse leaders. The outdoor electronic music festival becomes a rave in the evening, but Piknic lived up to its name during the early afternoon as attendees took it easy with some food and drink while enjoying the beautiful weather and minimalist electro beats. Things picked up for the week’s final event, with the  ”Sleepless in Bel-Arts” Party providing dance floors, bowling, and arcade games to over 3,000 frosh participants from all faculties at Pepsi Forum.

In the wake of recent fiscal problems, there was some uncertainty with regard to the new combined frosh week. In 2010, AUS frosh coordinators overestimated registration demand and raised the participant cap to 1800 students, causing a $30,000 deficit for the event. With the blunder still fresh in many organizers minds, they now operate more cautiously. This year’s registrant cap was 1400 students, compared to last year’s 1450. “We try to keep estimates conservative – you never know how many people will show up,” said Exel.

Even with the conservative cap, registration fell about 200 participants short of the 1400-student cap. Greenberg speculated that the newly-combined registration fee of $140 ($80 for AUS frosh, $60 for SSMU frosh), as well as many new “à la carte” events around campus, may have dissuaded some potential participants. “CEGEPs being delayed in Quebec last year may have affected McGill admissions,” he added. Greenberg was quick to state that AUS Frosh broke even this year.

Last year, university administrators enforced a pay-for-beer policy at the beer tent, ending a long history of free-flowing beer on the lower field. Many expected registration costs this year to decrease as beer was no longer a bundled cost component, yet the combined cost of AUS and SSMU frosh went unchanged. “We earn surprisingly little money by charging for beer,” said Exel. “It’s entirely not budgetary,” he added, indicating that the policy of charging for beer is solely to discourage excessive consumption.

With few logistical errors, AUS and SSMU coordinators managed to execute a largely successful reformed frosh. They also managed to execute the best hats. Students were grateful for the extended weekend that followed, as most needed a few days to recover from a week that was flip-turned upside down in every way possible.

Alex Pajusi contributed reporting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: View our photo coverage here.

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