The irony of Frosh Week

A critical examination of Frosh Week festivities 

Contrary to what your older friends, parents, and future house presidents are telling you, Frosh Week isn’t all fun and games – and should not be celebrated universally as such. The tradition was born more than a century ago, as a way to ease new students into the university lifestyle before their course load began. After all, nobody is going to learn at their best if they’re homesick. Residences will provide you with some semblance of familial belonging; the combination of ‘house spirit’ and physical proximity will serve as convenient mechanisms to bind you together with your housemates. By the time the week is finished, you’ll have found a social network to replace the one that you’ve left behind. There is a great irony lurking behind frosh week’s utility, however. The same mechanisms that are intended to prepare students for intellectual pursuit are themselves anti-intellectual.

Think about it. Frosh week facilitates the indoctrination of new students with what are, literally, classic cult techniques: forced sleep deprivation and compulsory mindless chanting come to mind. These are techniques that have been proven to culminate in a loss of individual autonomy and decision making ability. ‘House spirit’, for instance, is nothing but an empty construct that students repeatedly buy into – residence selection is largely arbitrary, and there is no reason to place judgement on someone just because they happen to have been randomly placed into a different building from you. 

Students almost always fail to recognize this, however, and the result is a mob mentality. 

This regularly breeds uncontrolled binge drinking and even inter-house violence. SMU’s frosh week made national news two years ago due to a similar problem. Scores of students, led by their house presidents, decided to shout a misogynistic and outright criminal chant from the university’s football field – all in the name of, you guessed it, ‘tradition and house spirit’. It is absolutely perverse that hundreds of, supposedly, the brightest young students in Canada are gathered together at an institution founded on the pursuit of knowledge, and these are the activities that they will choose to pursue.

Now that my criticism is out there, it’s time for me to back pedal a bit and attempt to save face with the frosh week enthusiasts. I do not mean to imply that the solution to the aforementioned problems is to avoid participating in frosh week’s activities altogether. To do so would be to forgo the utility that the week offers. (In other words, good luck having any friends after resigning to your room for the entire week). My advice, rather, is to think critically about the cult-like practices that you will inevitably be subjected to. Are you participating in behaviour simply because the person beside you is doing so, or because a perceived authority figure tells you that you have to? If the answer is yes, then save yourself some dignity and stop.