Welcome Week may have ended two weeks ago, but if we’re all being honest, the busiest week on campus is still frequenting our minds and our Instagram feeds. McMaster’s first year orientation week sets the tone for the rest of the school year by welcoming new students to campus and Hamilton and welcoming back faculty and student representatives. The week is a fun-filled extravaganza, but its enduring physical and mental participation means that not all students leave with a positive attitude. Here are eleven different feelings you’re experiencing now that the week is dead and gone.
Exhaustion. With the high amounts of spirit and consistent cheering Welcome Week brings, reps and first years alike are probably still recovering from the exhausting eight days. The beating sun, the long hours and lack of food and water intake all contribute to needing to hibernate for three whole weeks (until we come out for Homecoming, obviously). Take your time to sleep as much as you can, refuel on all your nutrients and spend some time practicing self-care.
Relief. Welcome Week is a cherished time — one that first years and reps can look back on with fond memories. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not relieved it’s over. While most students start off the week in full spirits, we are relieved by the start of actual school that we no longer have to be up at 8:30am for a day of mostly extraverted activities.
Sadness. As Nelly Furtado best puts it, “Why do all good things come to an end?” While there are so many mixed feelings towards Welcome Week as a whole, one feeling many reps share is sadness. The week can act as a supercharged bonding activity for so many students. So much so that at week's end, reps are miserable that they don’t get to spend any more condensed time with their team. And for those who are graduating, the end of the week can be even more somber as fourth and fifth year reps know that they have suited up for the last time.
Excitement. The years or year to come can be a beacon of excitement while finishing off Welcome Week. The orientation activities might not have been for you, the classes you choose might be really interesting or you’re just really ready to graduate. Symbolizing a fresh start to a new school year, the Welcome Week finale can be full of anticipation.
Regret. While Welcome Week is full of great memories, there’s always something we wish we could have done or improved. Maybe you forgot a move during Airbands or didn’t get to ask your Welcome Week crush for their phone number (it’s impossible to recognize people without their rep suits). Or you didn’t get to visit the Engineer’s petting zoo or get someone to take a fire Instagram photo of you. Welcome Week regrets can hit you harder than normal as the only way to redeem yourself is to wait until next year (if you’re repping WW 2018 that is). Try to let the good memories replace the regrets. By the end of April, you probably won’t remember them at all.
Anger. If you were involved in Welcome Week in any capacity (organizing, repping or being a first year), you probably got angry or frustrated at some point during the week, and those feelings might be lingering into first term. This year's Welcome Week definitely had some areas of improvement that left many people angry with the process — some examples being the food options on campus available during move-in, Justin Trudeau’s visit taking reps away from their duties or rep training being slightly boring and redundant. Take your anger and channel that into filling out the Welcome Week survey, which should be hitting your Mac email inbox within the month.
Sickness. No, this isn’t a feeling, but students sure are feeling the big Welcome Week sick. Due to the exhaustion and over exposure to germs, there’s many people who are slowly descending into gross coughs and sneezes. Go to the doctor, take some medicine and save your roommates and classmates from your cold.
Another week, another success.
Seven months ago, that success was anything but certain.
After controversy and close scrutiny fell on the McMaster Redsuits for a sexist and degrading songbook connected to the organization, Welcome Week has come and gone with little issue for the Engineering reps. But that's just fine with Shane Zuchowski, one of the Redsuit planners alongside Jose Mercado, who already had their hands full with the ups and downs of the week.
Even after an improbable train of setbacks that includes mixed-up bookings, rain, fire alarms, and losing two buses for faculty night due to accident, Zuchowski has had a good attitude about it all.
"Someone should have just told me to wear spandex - the chafe is real," he said, laughing.
In terms of the first years, it's been one of the most successful Welcome Weeks the Redsuits have had.
"[For faculty night] we had a record turnout of 600 first year students,” he said. “The biggest problem was getting students to go back home. We had to get students back on the bus that were like, 'I don't want to go yet.’”
Of course, it hasn't been all rosy, and it certainly hasn't been easy. Shifting the culture of a group whose identity has been at times associated with drinking and promiscuity was going to receive some pushback. But despite a formal investigation and a rigorous selection process, the responsibility for changing the attitude was largely entrusted to the new Reds by the university.
"We never really had to have a conversation [with the university] about what we can and can't do because we both understood where that line was. Obviously, [things like] glorifying alcohol... and over-sexualizing everything the engineers have done in the past; that was something Redsuit culture was shifting [away from]," Zuchowski explained.
They've had to be creative, but small changes like changing a cheer from "smoke and drink and fool around" to "joke and think and fool around" have helped adjust their approach without neutering the brash and irreverent attitude the group is ultimately known for.
Zuchowski said, "For old Reds, at the very start, there was still the soreness from what happened because for people, Redsuits are a family. We've all been through Welcome Week together, we've all been sleep-deprived, but we've also all gone through the same program, we've all had the same struggles during exams... your friends are right there to support you."
The culture and conversation has changed outside of the controversial subjects, too. Traditions like the fake math test were changed to be called a "success portfolio" to alleviate the real stress some students had in advance of the test.
However, while the shift away from the old culture has been largely successful, other issues were bound to come to the forefront, one of which was a complaint that was submitted for a “fuck yeah” cheer.
“I will fully take responsibility for that issue,” Zuchowski said. “Since the start of Welcome Week, what we’ve focused on mainly were the things specifically outlined in the investigation, which were things like glorifying cheers about alcohol and oversexualization.”
“We realized our mistake… we got rid of it,” he said. “We wanted to apologize because we really didn’t mean anything of it.”
He continued, “understandably, everybody has a different level of sensitivity to things like that, especially curse words, but it slipped my mind [to discontinue it].”
When asked how he felt the Redsuits were able to adjust this year, Student Development Manager and member of the Welcome Week Advisory Committee Jeremy Sandor commented that he was “incredibly happy with how the week went.
“The two planners, Shane and Jose, were tireless through the summer in terms of working with staff from the Faculty of Engineering, the Student Success Centre, and the McMaster Students Union [in order] to make sure that the spirit and energy that the faculty is known for during Welcome Week was preserved,” Sandor said.
Although inclusiveness seems to have had a greater focus this year, Julia Clemens, the Welcome Week Faculty Coordinator, maintains that the philosophy has remained the same.
She said, "In some ways, we've refined behavior, and maybe there's a new perspective where a cheer that you think is harmless... and 95 per cent of students would have been ok with it - we're maybe a little more conscious of the five per cent that is made uncomfortable by it."
When looking at the lack of controversy during Welcome Week relative to the firestorm seven months ago, it’s clear that perspective took a new step this year.
Click through for some photos of Faculty Fusion, MacConnector, and the Tommy Trash concert. Photos c/o Sarah Janes.