Check out how undergrads of each year feel about wrapping up their first post-COVID restriction era university year.

Adriana Miranda — 1st Year Social Sciences 

While first-year social science student Adriana Miranda would describe her overall first-year experience as rewarding, she expressed how completing her first year has left her with hard-hitting life lessons she can always carry with her.  

Miranda feels that she truly came into learning how to confidently advocate for herself and her needs. She now understands that in university if she needs access to any available resources on campus, she must ask for it herself. This component of university taught Miranda that she must always be aware of her rights.  

Even if Miranda is currently enjoying wrapping up her second semester with new friends, as a racialized student she faced systemic barriers in her first semester when she was still relatively new at McMaster.  

“I never felt othered until I started attending McMaster. I saw many racialized students experience isolation and have difficulty making friends. Noticing this influenced how I viewed my classes, peers and professors. Thankfully, once I made friends everything got better,”

Adriana Miranda

In Miranda’s experience, she believes that McMaster can take a greater initiative when it comes to protecting and standing up for students experiencing sexual harassment and violence on campus. Even in departments dedicated to handling such issues such as the Human Rights and Dispute Resolution Program Miranda did not feel cared for or validated by the school.  

“After all that, my main takeaway is that it’s built on colonialism and patriarchy. I’m realizing that now, I’m not going to be as naïve and as trusting with the institution because I’m now aware of what people in charge perpetuate,” said Miranda.  

Going forward, Miranda will focus on finding spaces for racialized students like the Latin American Student Association and Women and Gender Equity Network where she can feel safer and more included.  

Elizabeth Rylaarsdam — 2nd Year Life Sciences - Sensory Motors System  

Now in her second year, Elizabeth Rylaarsdam had to adapt her first year in the life sciences program online. This year, she moved to Hamilton from Ottawa.  

“When everything was online, it still felt like school. However, when I moved away alone for the first time to a new city and transitioned to a hybrid [format], everything felt optional,”

Elizabeth Rylaarsdam

In this year’s hybrid academic model, Rylaarsdam had trouble staying motivated in her online courses as switching between online and in person repeatedly between courses made some classes feel more real for her than others. Rylaarsdam had to adapt her learning style many times in university due to the COVID approaches taken by McMaster along with many second-years and has been unable to establish a routine that works for her.  

Living alone combined with the physical demands caused by in-person learning made Rylaarsdam lessen the number of hours she worked to avoid falling behind academically. She reduced her working hours from 30 hours a week to 10 to 12 hours even if her living expenses increased.  

It was difficult for Rylaarsdam to find a core social group within a school setting as she observed others in her year have somehow formed friend groups already. Aside from hanging out with her hometown friends from high school friends who also attend McMaster, Rylaarsdam managed her mental health by joining the Hamilton Hornets Women’s Rugby Club.  

Playing rugby weekly allowed Rylaarsdam to stay in shape while being able to find a community that she regularly socializes with in a new city. 

“Despite the tumultuous learning curves of moving and finally starting in person university where I felt like I experienced much of the learning I was supposed to get in my first year in my second year, I am hopeful about starting fresh next semester after a restful summer now that I know what to expect,” explained Rylaarsdam.  

Jaclyn Holdsworth — 3rd year Arts and Sciences  

Jaclyn Holdsworth’s third-year experience in the arts and sciences was defined by the bonding she experienced with her cohort post lockdown. Holdsworth experienced connecting and making friendships in her first year within the community culture fostered by her program before enduring Zoom university until this semester.  

“After so much time in lockdown, everyone had more appreciation for the kind of social network and the relationships we wanted to have with others. We are a lot more willing to foster relationships and the quality of those relationships are a lot more authentic,”

Jaclyn Holdsworth

Experiencing the isolation of Zoom school was difficult for Holdsworth, however it caused her to become more willing to acknowledge the times when she is not feeling her best. To mitigate her mental health, Holdsworth stresses the importance of doing at least one small act of self-care every day, be it restocking snacks or going for a walk.  

Embracing and taking care of oneself even when times are tough allowed many third-years like Holdsworth to understand that better times await, and that you are in a much better position to be able to support other others if you start to take care of yourself as well. 

Upon tasting in-person life after a world-shattering event, and still with one year of university left, Holdsworth vows to make herself happy everyday instead of planning for possible contentment five years down the line. Trying not to take her undergraduate experience for granted anymore, Holdsworth encourages everybody to take the time to be present and practice gratitude every day.  


“I would prefer not another pandemic if you can arrange for that. Plan for tomorrow but don’t depend on it,” said Holdsworth. 

Claudia Yong — 4th year Kinesiology (Graduating) 

Working tirelessly on her kinesiology degree throughout her undergrad, Claudia Yong waves a bittersweet goodbye to her time as an undergrad student as she returned to classes in-person just in time to graduate. Yong still feels a little unfamiliar in her position as a fourth-year student given that she lost a year to COVID, and wonders if other graduating students are also feeling a sense of imposter syndrome.  

“The moment I realized I was graduating was when we were taking grad photos. When I put on the gown and sat in the chair for photos, it was surreal, and I could not believe it. The moment the camera went off I finally realized that I’m graduating,” said Yong. 

Fortunately, the return to classes this academic year allowed Yong to pursue the hands-on thesis work she always dreamt of doing and ignited a passion for research in her. Missing out on much of the experiential learning of her science degree in her third year, COVID greatly influenced Yong’s decision to pursue a masters to once again give herself the opportunity to explore and further expand on the research skills she fell in love with.  

With the end of her degree, Yong is continuing to learn not to compare herself and her journey with others, understanding that everybody has their own destined trajectory.  

Referencing the kindness of her kinesiology professors, Yong always encourages the importance of fostering meaningful connections for personal enrichment with faculty members, regardless of a desire for recommendation letters.  


“Many women including myself experience a lot of dismissiveness in healthcare, even from other female practitioners. I want to positively impact the healthcare system for women who might otherwise avoid treatment,”

Claudia Yong

C/O Travis Nguyen

A closer look at the elected first-year representatives for the MES and their hopes for the future

By: Kirsten Espe, Contributor

On Sept. 27, 2021, the results for the 2021-2022 McMaster Engineering Society elections were announced. After a year and a half of online learning, all candidates, especially the first-year representatives, were excited and optimistic about an in-person university experience.

Following a week-long campaign, six first-year Engineering students were elected by their peers to represent the biotechnology, computer science, engineering 1 and integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences programs.

Halima Banuso, one of the three level one engineering representatives, spoke about her early interest in becoming involved at McMaster. 

“[The] MES were basically the ones who ran the Red Suits for Welcome Week . . . I just really loved all the activities and the Red Suits are super cool. I remember me and my friend asked ‘Oh, how do you become a Red Suit because I wanna do that [in my] second year too’,” said Banuso. 

Aside from the excitement of returning to a somewhat in-person experience, Banuso was also enthusiastic to get back to doing something that she loved.

“I was that person who just really liked going to every event and planning every event and I was on my high school student council . . . Obviously school’s important, but that’s not necessarily what you’re going to remember and in a few years you’re going to remember the memories, the friends you made, the cool events you got to go to, so I really like being a part of that stuff,” said Banuso.

The first-year integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences representative, Dhanya Koshti, said that one of his main motivators in applying to the position was his desire for community. 

“Everyone knows what they’re doing but they are way more for working towards collaboration over competition,” said Koshti. 

Koshti made an astute connection between the distinctiveness of his program and the McMaster “Fireball Family” by comparing the bridge of engineering and health sciences. 

“We’re sort of that hybrid in-between . . . We have this really unique relationship dynamic with each other and I really wanted to build on that connection,” explained Koshti.

Hetanshu Pandya, the first-year computer science representative, also spoke about the importance of his position in relation to the community at McMaster.

“[Students] can share their thoughts, their experiences, their opinions, whether it be negative or positive . . . and you can share it [with] me and I can communicate that with the council,” said Pandya.

“[Students] can share their thoughts, their experiences, their opinions, whether it be negative or positive . . . and you can share it [with] me and I can communicate that with the council.”

Hetanshu Pandya, first-year computer science representative

Pandya said his main goal is to represent first-year computer science students fairly and effectively, with hopes of exceeding both his and his fellow peers’ expectations for the year. 

Due to the partial online environment currently established at McMaster University, candidates found themselves honing their technological skills to campaign, particularly through social media. 

Matthew Arias, the biotechnology first-year representative, commented on his campaign that was done on Instagram. 

“[The] first thing I did was make an Instagram account because everybody’s on Instagram and it’s kind of the easiest way to reach out. I’d make Instagram posts on another website with graphic designing and I posted on there,” explained Arias.

Arias also highlighted that some of his fellow students would repost his posts without him ever asking, further driving home the sense of community the other representatives spoke about. 

All four engineering representatives echoed similar sentiments to their fellow first-year students of the MES prior to the start of their official term. 

“To the same extent that you all supported me, I really want to be there to help you guys. That is what this position, really, is all about,” said Koshti. 

“To the same extent that you all supported me, I really want to be there to help you guys. That is what this position, really, is all about.”

Dhanya Koshti, FIRST-YEAR INTEGRATED BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING AND HEALTH SCieNCES REPRESENTATIVE

“Whether things are virtual, or in-person, someone’s on-residence, or off-residence, [I hope that] we can all come together and really feel a part of the McMaster engineering community,” said Banuso. 

“Whether things are virtual, or in-person, someone’s on-residence, or off-residence, [I hope that] we can all come together and really feel a part of the McMaster engineering community.”

Halima Banuso, first-year engineering 1 reps

Despite the different circumstances students may be in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these four representatives look forward to building a strong community for first-year engineering students.

Struggling to connect with one another through virtual classes, first-year students found community on social media

After four months of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, McMaster University students can finally say that their first semester of online learning is behind them. Some students, however, have only ever experienced McMaster online.

Since September, first-year students at McMaster have experienced a virtual transition to university. As residence is closed for the majority of first years, most have had to meet their peers virtually. However, the opportunities for socialization are different and more limited in an online classroom setting.

Navya Sheth, a first-year arts and science student from Oakville, Ontario, reflected on her first semester. For her, the hardest part of online school was forming connections with her peers through the screen, rather than the new academic challenges.

For Navya Sheth, the hardest part of online school was forming connections with her peers through the screen.

In anticipation of the social challenges that come with an entirely remote school year, McMaster tried to foster community among first-year students by adapting orientation to fit the online environment. This orientation involved a virtual Welcome Week and a new program called Archway, which was designed to help students access resources and meet new friends.

Saumyaa Rishi, a first-year life sciences student from Ottawa, Ontario, was grateful for the effort put into Welcome Week. Nonetheless, she found it difficult to connect with other first-years in that setting. 

“When you do these online [social events], there’s always a bigger group of people. It’s not like in-person where you can just talk to the person standing next to you,” Rishi said. 

“When you do these online [social events], there’s always a bigger group of people. It’s not like in-person where you can just talk to the person standing next to you,” Rishi said. 

Sheth expressed a similar sentiment when discussing her experiences with McMaster’s online social events, in particular, the Archway program. While she did enjoy the Zoom events hosted by the Arts and Science program, she found Archway wasn’t a conducive platform for her to make social connections.

Aniruddh Arora, a first-year international student in the computer science program, found that Archway was most beneficial at the start of the semester. “It was helpful for the first one or two weeks,” Arora noted.

“I had my own friend groups on WhatsApp and Instagram,” Arora explained. 

Arora then added that he later stopped attending meetings. Not only did he no longer have time in his busy academic schedule to attend Archway meetings, he also didn’t find it necessary anymore.

“I had my own friend groups on WhatsApp and Instagram,” he explained. 

Arora is not the only first-year student who has found community on social media. Over the last few months, some first-year students at McMaster have relied on social media to connect and communicate.

“When you talked to people [on social media], you knew that they were sort of going through the same thing,” said Rishi.

Rishi described social media as being a positive force in her first semester. “When you talked to people [on social media], you knew that they were sort of going through the same thing,” said Rishi.

According to Rishi, the impact of social media on her first-year experience has been far-reaching. Not only has social media been instrumental in the formation of friendships, as Rishi noted, but it has also helped first-year students to feel connected to the McMaster community in other ways.

Social media been instrumental in the formation of friendships.

Arora, who is attending McMaster from his home in Punjab, India, pointed out the academic benefits of social media on first-year students. As timezones often prevent him from being awake during the same hours as his professors, Arora has found the group chats created on various social media platforms to be a valuable academic support system.

“It really helps if you’re stuck on an assignment,” Arora explained.

As timezones often prevent him from being awake during the same hours as his professors, Arora has found the group chats created on various social media platforms to be a valuable academic support system. “It really helps if you’re stuck on an assignment,” Arora explained.

Social media has helped first-year students get involved with extracurricular activities as well. As an active member of the McMaster Moot Court, Sheth noted that she found out about the majority of extracurricular opportunities through Instagram.

On the impact that social media had on her first semester, Sheth believed Instagram links people to places where they feel connected albeit virtually. However she noted the challenges of a virtual first-year remain significant on students as some feel isolated to figure out how to adapt to online university.

“[Some] upper-years are living together in houses and can see each other, and I’m at home, trying to figure this out on my own,” Sheth said. “And I think that might be something that all first years are struggling with.”

Online school has led to a disjointed and difficult experience for first-year students

By: Madeleine Harvey, Contributor

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, first-year students anticipated beginning university. As we imagined ourselves attending campus events, studying in campus libraries and socializing with our peers in campus restaurants, the excitement of attending university mounted with each passing day. Campus life brought promises of enrichment of the mind and soul. We would be able to curate lifelong connections with our peers and our professors, discovering our passions through one-on-one interaction and investigation. 

Unfortunately, with the onset of the pandemic, these dreams were squandered as we learned that in-person education would be impossible for the 2020-2021 academic year. Instead, many students now define university life as a lonesome affair with an intense workload. This has a profound impact on the mental health and morale of first-year students at McMaster University. 

One of the most important aspects of campus life is socialization. With the onset of online education, students are physically isolated from one another and unable to cultivate lasting friendships. While Zoom lectures can be effective for providing some semblance of a normal classroom through face-to-face visibility, the limited class time is not enough for constructive socialization in a discussion setting. Body language and facial expressions can be extremely difficult to gauge — and this is assuming that everybody has their camera turned on. As a result, Zoom lectures provide a very impersonal experience for students, rather than connecting them with their peers.

Instead, many students now define university life as a lonesome affair with an intense workload. This has a profound impact on the mental health and morale of first-year students at McMaster University.

This lack of connection is exaggerated for first-year students. While the upper-years have already had opportunities to bond with their peers in-person, first-year students have not been afforded that same luxury. Instead, we have to navigate the world of Zoom in order to meet friends. With constant interruptions, screen freezings and awkward silences, the technological barrier can be extremely difficult when trying to befriend others.

Outside of the virtual “classroom,” many students are hesitant to interact with their cohort. Even in usually tight-knit communities, such as Arts & Science, students are finding it difficult to make friends. Some students point to the fact that they do not want to do their schoolwork on a screen and also attempt to make friends online because of ever-impending Zoom fatigue.

Outside of the virtual “classroom,” many students are hesitant to interact with their cohort. Even in usually tight-knit communities, such as Arts & Science, students are finding it difficult to make friends.

Navigating WhatsApp group chats and other non-educational forms of interaction cannot replace the value of face-to-face interaction. Many students are unable to fully convey their personality online and make connections with like-minded individuals. Sarcasm and humour that would be perceived during in-person conversation cannot be read as easily in digital message form. When one single text can be interpreted to have multiple meanings, charisma is almost non-existent. As a result, it can be extremely tedious to make friends in a group chat and students become reluctant to reach out across cyberspace to other individuals. This can exacerbate loneliness when working remotely.

Coupled with reduced social interaction, the intensified workload relative to high school is taking its toll on the first-year student body. For many students, working from home is not the ideal situation. The home can be a place of distractions and other obligations that students must fulfill during their day. Many students find themselves working upwards of 10 hours per day with little time to unwind and relax.

Those with part-time jobs have difficulty finding a balance between work, school and relaxation. While this is certainly not a first-year exclusive experience, the effects of an increased workload online are amplified as newcomers to the higher expectations of university.

For many students, working from home is not the ideal situation. The home can be a place of distractions and other obligations that students must fulfill during their day.

Last week, real human interaction occurred purely by accident when a Zoom malfunction stranded me and three classmates in a breakout room for the remainder of a lecture. Not wanting to return to the lonesome affair of Zoom university, my classmates and I carried out a conversation about how our lives had adapted to online school. This simple conversation soon drifted into other various topics and eventually, the banter turned humorous. For the first time since the beginning of school, I felt that I had made true connections with my classmates — a rarity in the face of online learning. All of us caught a whiff of what our first-year experience may have been without the pandemic.

The concerns expressed in this article only scratch the surface of the abundance of detrimental effects associated with online school. Due to these unprecedented circumstances, it can be difficult to place blame on the university for this unfortunate first-year experience. Unless first-years are willing to take the extra step to reach out to members of the community in an attempt to curate lasting friendships, loneliness is inevitable.

As for the workload, students will need to devise a strategy so they can manage their studies while still taking time for themselves during this circumstance of global calamity. Perhaps, a solution could include scheduling breaks away from screens in-between lectures, organizing Zoom study groups or venturing out into nature if the weather permits. Likewise, professors should be receptive to feedback and be willing to adjust their teaching methods to suit the needs of the online environment. Online school is far from perfect, but in order to avoid hopelessness and despair, students need to make the best of this sad imitation of the first-year experience.

Photos c/o Gabrielle Bulman Thomas

If it felt like there were millions of new raptors fans this past summer, that’s because there probably were. There’s nothing quite like the first National basketball asociation championship in Canadian history to bring people together, one of the great powers of athletics. Whether it’s playing sports or watching the Toronto Raptors dominate the Golden State Warriors, sports have a habit of uniting people together over a common interest. This sense of inclusivity is also why intramurals play a big role in the off-campus community here at McMaster. 

When you live off-campus, it can be hard to feel like you have a home at Mac. School can be a place associated with academic stress and not much else. This is why the society of off-campus students runs intramurals every week. Intramurals can be a great way to get to know more people who are also in a similar situations. Here’s what the president of the society of off-campus students, Jeremy Sewnauth, had to say about SOCS and intramurals.

“Sports are a universal thing that everyone can bond over whether you’re talking about it or playing it,” Sewnauth said.  “At intramurals, we end up doing so many different sports, this term we’re running soccer, water polo and frisbee and those were the sports that the members of the society voted for.” Sewnauth said.

Taking part in the PlayFun division is a great way to get involved in sport through a relatively non-competitive environment, where no one takes things too seriously and everyone is just looking to have some fun. There’s no need to have extensive knowledge in the sport or know every detail about the rules. PlayFun is a casual level of sport where students can meet one another.

“You don’t have to have any experience, you don’t have to know how to play any sports, if it’s something you’re interested in or you just want to kill some time, you can just pop in and play. If you don’t know how to play it everyone that’s there is willing and able to teach you how to play,” Sewnauth mentioned.

Playing sports chosen by SOCS members themselves makes it likely that people will come out, as they are going to be playing the sports they voted for. This type of engagement with everyone in the club is part of why SOCS is so successful. 

“Every single weekend we’ll have a full squad come out for soccer, frisbee and water polo which gives you the opportunity to bond with people. A lot of people after games end up hanging out and every time I’ve met so many people,” added Sewnauth. 

SOCS aims to offer off-campus students a way to feel connected and provide a home at McMaster. They offer multiple ways of trying to do that but, sports and intramurals are definitely one of the best ways to accomplish their goal. 

“A lot of the times you’ll see groups of people, like a floor in residence or something they’ll put together a team or that same group of students that were all friends before. In later years they’ll keep doing these intramural teams every year. We try to create something similar where we’re creating a community among sports,” said Sewnauth. 

Being an off-campus student can often feel lonely but it doesn’t have to be. Intramurals are a great way to connect with other students. You can get a SOCS membership in the basement of the student centre and they’ll be more than happy to help you sign up for their intramural team.

 

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In an effort to improve the off-campus first-year university experience, McMaster Housing and Conference Services introduced the optional Commuter in Residence Experience program in 2017. But the program did not launch without its hiccups.

“CoRE grew out of the recognition that first-year off-campus students have unique needs, and commonly struggle to make the same connections to the campus as their counterparts in residence,” said Simon Wilmot, Residence Life coordinator.

To sign up for the program, students must pay a $325 registration fee. Some benefits of CoRE include the opportunity to participate in residence Welcome Week activities, access extra study spaces and consult with off-campus Community Advisors.

CoRE students can also join on-campus communities, attend events, access residence academic centres that provide free drop-in tutoring services and organize community events through the Community Activity Fund.

In spite of these benefits, the program has not been in high demand from first-year off-campus students, with only 20 registering for CoRE in 2017. Although 11 CAs were initially hired, this number was reduced to three due to the lack of student interest.

“As this was a new program our marketing came out late in the admissions cycle and unfortunately did not resonate with incoming students.”

 

Scott Wilmot
Coordinator
Residence Life

Wilmot believes that CoRE did not attract a sufficiently high number of off-campus students because of the high cost and lack of advertising for the program.

“As this was a new program our marketing came out late in the admissions cycle and unfortunately did not resonate with incoming students,” said Wilmot. “We also believe that the initial cost of the program was a barrier to participation for many students.”

A former Society of Off-Campus Students representative, however, believes that CoRE’s low demand stems from the fact that most first-year off-campus students were not consulted in the development of the program.

“[CoRE] first years were isolated from Welcome Week events and only interacted with their CAs and not at all with the SOCS reps,” they said.

To improve the program, the SOCS representative suggests that HCS schedule events at accessible times as off-campus first-years tend to miss concerts, for instance, because the last Go bus leaves campus at 10:45 p.m.

The rep also recommends increasing outreach to off-campus students from the university.

“The outreach to first-year off-campus students from the university is non-existent,” they said. “Whereas residence students get emails from Residence Life, off-campus [students] don’t get that because of the privacy act, so we cannot gain the emails of first years to let them know the schedule before Welcome Week.”

To ignite more interest from first-year off-campus students, Wilmot will be working to rebrand the 2018 CoRE program. HCS will specifically be connecting the CoRE program to Living and Learning Communities, which bring together like-minded students in residences at the university.

“We hope to connect off-campus students with these communities and provide them with access to exclusive LLC programming and resources,” said Wilmot.

HCS is also plans to lower the program fee.

“We are also reducing the program fee from over $300 in 2017 to less than half of that in 2018,” said Wilmot. “We are still working on some of the details, but our intention is to dramatically reduce the cost of the program.”

Wilmot’s objective is to recruit over a hundred students to the program in 2018 and then double that the following year.

As the university takes steps to rebrand and lower the cost of the program, HSC will need to ensure the needs of CoRE students, reps and off-campus first-years’ voices are met. Jennifer Kleven, who leads the CoRE program at HCS, is open to hearing feedback from students and reps.

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Honestly, I forgot how transitioning to university felt as a first-year. There was a certain uneasiness and anxiety that came with it. Feelings of leaving old times behind and not really knowing what next week, let alone five years from then, would have in store were mixed with good times and new friends. The last few weeks may be a sensation you will never experience to this degree again.

While support for incoming students was strong when I started, it has increased over the years. The number of events and services dedicated to helping the first few weeks of adjustment has grown consistently since. A countless number of dedicated volunteers and staff to help incoming students have somehow grown into an even larger number with no signs of stopping.

We have not done enough to be included into that group.

With everything that has been happening in the community, the paper and the lives of the staff, it slipped my mind to reiterate the importance of understanding what our readers may be going through.

The last issue had a lot of useful information, but that should be the norm anyway. We had “Congratulations — Welcome to Mac” on the cover, but that is not necessarily new or useful in a long list of welcomes given to new students.

Most of our welcomes have been self-serving. Attracting people to the paper and getting volunteers to contribute to our sections have been a few of our many priorities. Reinforcing why we do what we do has not been one. While attempting to improve the paper is nice, it is difficult to do without keeping its purpose in mind.

If we are not doing our best to serve you as the reader, then we are not living up to our objective or potential.

While this is generally in the form of making sure your voice is represented and heard and keeping you informed about McMaster related issues, it should also take the form of understanding your thoughts and feelings about the university. Our articles often have overlap with this, but some sort of sincerity should have been explicitly expressed.

We are not the best resource for support by any means. We are not specialized in mental health, running events or academic considerations. What we can do is make sure that we express our appreciation for you and make sure you are comfortable with the media that serves you.

It should not matter if you read the paper a single time or if you never volunteer for us. If you have been here for less than a day, multiple decades or any period in-between, we would like to welcome you to the university for the start of the academic year.

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Nichole Fanara
The Silhouette

I read once that opinions articles should encompass all the possibilities of the issue at hand and express all the potential of the future. But I also believe that the capital, the system, should always be questioned, should question itself, and ultimately, be accountable for its actions.

So here I want to make McMaster University accountable for suspending the Engineering group called “Redsuits” from Welcome Week 2014 by telling my personal welcome week story from my first year four years ago.

I came to McMaster University in September 2010. I was (and still am) a proud off-campus commuter from Hamilton, and alongside joining SOCS, I looked to my faculty to inspire school spirit within me. Unfortunately I did not find a home within the Humanities reps. I found them off-putting because I felt that they did not care. I have seen tremendous attempts by the Humanities reps to change (and I believe they are only going to get better) but four years ago, their reps were not inspired to engage with the first years (or at least, I did not meet the ones who were). So on faculty night, a fellow Hummmer and I went with our Engineering friends to their faculty night.

Now, faculty nights are traditionally off-campus, and as unofficial off-campus rules go, cheers can be sung that are not allowed on campus. I was not told anything about the Engineers having a dirty songbook. My Eng friends did not have access to a handbook that said “Prepare yourself for the scandal.” On campus during the week, we had seen their superheros running around with plungers, we even heard a rumor that their reps drink beer (all the reps?! Aren’t they, like, 20 years old?). So we were prepared for a fun night out, meeting reps and fellow first years.  And then we got onto a bus. And that is when the truth came out about the Redsuits.

Reps came up to me, talked to me, tried to get to know me, my interests, what classes to take and profs to watch out for. The Engineers made me feel so accepted and included in ways my own faculty didn’t that I will always remember that night as a real welcoming to academia. It was the most amazing feeling to come to a new place and have people actually care that you are a person, not some firstie. I cannot say that for more than half of the classes I have attended at this school. But I can say that for the Engineers.

McMaster University is making a huge mistake in suspending the Engineers from Welcome Week 2014. The MSU is only backing them up because they have to. And the other faculty groups should take a stand against this if the Engineers are banned from participation. That group has the most fun and offers great help and support to so many young adults coming into school. If they are banned from Welcome Week, then I am ashamed McMaster cannot understand the great social impact they have versus the stupidity of a few students to publish such profanity.

Those cheers have been around since at least the 1980’s. Every rep group has cheers that are dirty, that go back to our parents’ time, and are not sung. They come out at reunions, sometimes off campus. But the fact that they exist within every group means that the Engineers are being persecuted for – quite literally - the sins of our parents.

The Redsuits as a whole do so much good that it is completely uncalled for the University to punish them all.

Long live the Redsuits.

 

 

Sophia Topper
The Silhouette

The First Year Council could be great. At least, it’s a great time for the five first years who get to blow through $4000 with minimal interference from the MSU, and minimal notice from the students who fund it. That would be you, by the way—15 cents of your 122.61$ Student Organization Fee goes to the FYC to do… something.

What the FYC is about is unclear to even its members, who gave a vast variety of answers to my every inquiry. Alexander Coomes, last year’s chair, claimed: “No one will ever seriously change the first year experience from this council.” They have had several successful events, for instance, their club nights were successful enough to recoup their output. This, however, simply makes the rest of the spending more puzzling. The council also hosted a movie night, but the proof is in the popcorn—three out of four enormous boxes linger uneaten in FYC’s meeting room.

The annual FYC survey occurred as well, though we haven’t received the results. None of the councillors I asked could say what would be done with the results if they existed, or explain why the survey needed to be annual - surely the needs of first years do not change that much from year to year. Perhaps this is to inform the advocacy that supposedly occurs. David Campbell, President of the MSU, said that the “FYC is a fantastic venue for first years to advocate on behalf of their peers,” but again none of the four members I spoke could describe any advocacy done, or even ideas for what advocacy could occur. Dmitri Dobrov, who held the advocacy portfolio, could not be reached for comment at the time this article was published.

In the words of Alexander Coomes, former chair, “We are a social club. Sometimes we pretend that we’re more, but we’re not.” This self-awareness is laudable, but also betrays the discouragement felt by some members.

“I think the council has great potential for something amazing, but I believe it really comes down to how much each individual on the council wants to commit and dedicate. The more effort and hard work that is put into the first year council will definitely reflect in the success and the experiences one will have,” said Yipeng Ge, Former Vice Chair.

Unfortunately, the FYC is plagued by resume-builders and MSU bubbleheads, who gleefully describe the personal benefits of the FYC while glossing over the benefits to the student body. During a conversation with one member, he pulled out his discount card not once, but twice, as well as regaling me with tales of using the room as his personal gaming sanctuary, saying it was “convenient to have a little bit of authority now and then.” Other members described to me the invaluable connections they made higher up in the MSU echelons, and the importance of the FYC on their resumes. “It’s the best value-to-workload ratio,” said an unnamed councillor. Coomes said, “You can put as much effort as you want to into it… if you mess up, no one’s really there to get mad.”

There is someone there though: me. And you should be mad too. $4000 is a lot of money for some lines on a few people’s resumes. But we can’t just blame them, this is on us too. The fact is, we get who we elect, and what we demand. The FYC started a first year street team, which met twice and fizzled out. A night in Bridges to discuss the first year experience which was mostly attended by friends of the exec. And that isn’t their fault - it’s ours. If we want more than just some club nights and some flops, then we need to elect people who will give it to us. And while it’s easy to blame the election protocols, where five dollars will buy forgiveness for even the most blatant of abuses, we’re still the ones (not) voting. As Coomes says, “If the idealists don’t step up, the cynics take over.”

Jacob Zrobin / The Silhouette

Besides the obvious implications speaking to a person’s bank account, attending university and eating copious amounts of spaghetti have a lot in common. Not unlike a long, chewy noodle, one will become sick of consuming the same rubbish for four years.

I was once enamoured by the idea of university. I imagined sweater-vested, glasses-wearing, sesquipedalian students who would be debating Kant and discussing Linus Pauling’s influence on the global arms race. I figured we would be doing so beside picnic baskets filled with apple pies and macroeconomic textbooks on luscious fields, where a rainbow was probably hanging overhead to make things, you know, picturesque.

I want to begin by saying I have no qualms with those who lack spectacles in university. In fact, at least two of my friends do not wear glasses. Nevertheless, besides the seemingly absurd amount McMaster is willing to pay for its perpetually failing garden, there was very little of my constructed dream at university. And I am slightly indignant of this fact.

When I first arrived in the hallowed halls of this enormous institution, I was given my tiny student ID and thrown into whitewashed lecture rooms with more students than the professor could shake an iClicker at. Over the chitchat and muffled microphone of the professor, the read verbatim PowerPoint slides, I imagined tomorrow would be better - that the first day of university was just nervous, and as a result, got off on the wrong foot.

Unfortunately, as it goes with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ chances of winning the Stanley Cup, my childhood fantasy would have to die. And with death, came disappointment, and with disappointment, poorly constructed syllogisms, incorrect Latin phrases and bitter Opinions pieces. Ad nausem.

There was first the monotony, which is I suppose is some masochistic right of passage into adulthood, of uninterested lecturers speaking to mostly empty lecture halls. We were not explorers in the academic pursuit; instead we only met the requirements of our degree because we had little room to do otherwise. The love of reading was sapped from your already bruised, wizened soul, and you became accustomed to trying to do well only for the sake of finishing your degree.

But my entitled-self thought it would be different, here, where knowledge is set to flourish. Rather, it was found more often than not that creativity would be punished, and that guidelines were meant to be followed. If you wanted challenging courses, your GPA would suffer, and so would your already dim post-university prospects of landing a career. You would forget everything after the exam, and only build on a small amount of greater knowledge. You could not register in the courses you wanted, because of an outdated system and limited class sizes, if the course was even offered to begin with. You were restricted and it was unfair. So is life, and so is the freedom one gets while cooking spaghetti.

To drown such pestering problems, you likely drank. Wine with your noodles, you may be drunk right now. There is no denying its involvement in the university culture, of getting piss drunk and then allowing us to recuperate long enough to write that essay, whose mark seemed to have no real correlation on how long we worked on it, or study for that test, which was route memorization rather than testing how to think, and then pee it all out in a long sigh of a cleansing.

This piece is not a complaint on student IDs, nor overcrowded lectures nor even the integration of alcoholism in university culture. It is definitely not supposed to be a submission of my own ineptitude, as salient as such a thing may be. Nor is this a lament on academic bureaucracy, out-of-date registrar systems, increased tuition, decreased library space, or even the exceptionally long wait facing every student right now, at this very instance, if they dare to buy a required textbook and the obvious truth that many will not even read those wonderful books after their purchase. This piece is not a laundry list of complaints formulated to outline failures but rather, as far as I can see it, an admission that the university has failed me and may be failing others.

Worst of all, once you finish your hard-earned, fridge-framed, beer-goggle degree, the hangover will hit you very hard. Like many graduates from this respected place, you will be respectfully jobless, unable to pay for the thousands of dollars you just spent on the degree whose sole intention was to prepare you for life, in someway, somehow. Perhaps it is the job market’s fault. Perhaps it is that damned ambiguous economy. Perhaps it is because after four years the only meal you can cook is spaghetti.

Regardless, you will be left with a horrible aftertaste with basically as many options as you had before university. This is not an opinion. This is a fact. The unemployment for young Canadians is nearing fifteen-percent, double the national average. And those who do get jobs, nearly one third are working in careers that are not related to or do not require a degree. These young Canadians are coming away from university with the newest education, carrying the cumbersome debt attached to their papyrus, red-stamped degrees, and will likely work within a job that has no need for their aggrandized schooling.

Like a miner in a dark, dark hole, you will be forced to look for something still, holding on to your degree with boastful pride. You will tell yourself it was worth it, that everything you learned was somewhere in your head, bouncing around, and if you could just hold onto this noodle for a little bit longer, everything would be okay. And when you cannot find anything worthwhile, to satisfy your crippling entitlement and dreams, the greedy culprits will be ready, open arms, happy smiles, offering you prospects and further erudition, presenting you their Master’s program. This time in the name of adaptability. This time in the name of inspiring minds. This time in the name of twenty-four thousand dollars. Where more time is drunk, more problems amass, and the culprits, frustratingly plowing away on their abhorrent gardening, tell you how intelligent you are becoming. Ad nausem.

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