Students fight admin over control of frosh week

Admin wants a more academic-oriented experience for new students

Despite a firm stance by administration over controversy surrounding control over Carleton’s frosh week, student groups vow to keep the annual event controlled by students.

Amid exam writing, Carleton students have gathered twice on the Ottawa campus in past weeks to protest the recent decision by administration to assume control of frosh week, starting next year. The administration informed student organizers of their decision via an e-mail sent by director of student affairs Ryan Flannagan.

The e-mail, addressed to the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) and the Rideau River Residence Association (RRRA), who have historically run frosh, commented on the “limited accountability for volunteers,” and a “lack of academic focus,” RRRA president Chris Infantry told the Charlatan.

Though he wouldn’t give a specific example, Flannagan told Maclean’s concern was raised over conduct by orientation volunteers at last year’s frosh.

“Leadership from orientation last year wasn’t exercising appropriate leadership and appropriate accountability with respect to how the orientation program was delivered last year,” he said. “We want our program to be aligned with other universities.”  He said that most Canadian universities typically have control over frosh week. “The university has liability for the program so it’s appropriate the university has the accountability for it,” he said.

While they will have control over the planning, the administration is looking at ways to partner with current orientation planners to bring more accountability and academic-focused activities to the week, Flannagan said.

While student leaders have argued the point of frosh week is to meet peers through ice-breaking activities, such as the canal group games and beach day, a press release issued by the school stated new events proposed by the administration include “a student success panel, a theatre play put on ‘surviving university,’ key note speakers, workshops on campus engagement and volunteering, and information on academic integrity.”

The release also makes special note that Shinerama, the nationwide frosh week fundraiser to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research will still be a key element of the week.

But incoming CUSA president Alex Sirois said student’s will have plenty of time to participate in academics during the four years they are students at Carleton. What’s more important is for new students to adjust to their new surroundings. “Carleton residence is your new home and Carleton is your new home and to be able to meet your new family is something that is very important,” he said.

Sirois said the decision was unexpected after administration participated in frosh week preparation, including the hiring of orientation volunteer leaders, something Flannagan said has been true of the past two years. “It’s pretty disgusting of them to do,” Sirois said.

Sirois says CUSA is looking to run an independent orientation for incoming students. He said their biggest obstacle to running frosh without administration approval would be the events normally held on campus, like the end-of-week concert would have to find a new venue. Typically, 50 per cent of frosh events are held on campus, he said. He said ideally the student leaders would like to see the frosh take place as normal, even with admin overseeing and finalizing all decisions. But, where the two groups differ, Sirois said, is over the types of activities they will introduce to new students.

The press release indicates the approximately 400 frosh volunteers who had already signed up to participate in running next year’s frosh are still welcome to continue that role.

As for funding, Sirois said the administration would still be looking to CUSA and RRRA to fund the week, but Flannagan said it’s a choice they’ll have to make. “We’re not going to ask CUSA to do anything financially or volunteer-wise unless they want to do it,” Flannagan said. He explained that 90 per cent of the money for frosh comes from voluntary student registration for the events, and he said the administration would use the same funding model for next year’s frosh.

Last year’s frosh week cost $135,000, RRRA president Chris Infantry told the Charlatan.

Flannagan’s e-mail also said the university’s decision is partly based on poor student participation in events. A survey released by Carleton’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning shows 61.8 per cent of first year undergraduates sampled participated in last year’s frosh week.

Of those who participated, just over 60 per cent said their overall satisfaction was “high,” 25.2 per cent said it was “medium” and 14.4 per cent said it was “low.”

Flannagan said increasing numbers over time is one of the administration’s goals. But for next year, if CUSA and RRRA decided to run a separate frosh off campus, numbers may be lower than they hope for, he said.