The darker side of Welcome Week

Christina Vietinghoff
July 10, 2015
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

wMany Welcome Week representatives will do anything for a donation in their faculty’s name towards Shinerama. Typical activities include selling popsicles in the sweltering heat, a song or dance to entertain a Hamiltonian doing their groceries or even a back massage to a tired fellow-rep.

Shinerama is the annual campaign many Canadian universities fundraise for during their Welcome Weeks, with the money ultimately going to Cystic Fibrosis Canada

But while most of these creative fundraising techniques are sanctioned by the university, provided the person solicited for the donation provides consent, one common fundraising technique involving alcohol expressly forbidden by the university has been driven underground.

Shinerama Keggers are a lucrative enterprise. For a small entry fee (usually $5-$10 dollars) student houses provide unlimited beer from a keg until it runs out, or the police come to shut it down due to noise complaints or public drunkenness.

These events are promoted through Facebook, or more covertly through text or word-of-mouth of the address where it will be held.

I thought about writing a news article on this phenomenon, reporting on specific Shinerama Keggers held by specific faculties that friends or I have attended. But pinpointing any one faculty would be unfair. This practice is widespread among all faculties, it’s been normalized in university culture, despite attempts by the Student Success Centre to emphasize safe alcohol consumption.

I’m not here to be a party pooper. In fact, for some people parties are an integral part of feeling welcomed into the McMaster community. But Shinerama Keggers are not the way to go about this and are problematic in several ways.

Firstly, while the primary audience is usually faculty Welcome Week representatives (especially for the Shinerama Keggers that happen in the summer), it is not uncommon to hear of first years being invited to the ones that happen during Welcome Week. This contributes to constructing partying and binge drinking as a necessary part of the university social experience, which it isn’t.

Such events are also explicitly forbidden, meaning organizers go to extreme lengths to conceal them. Shinerama Keggers are sometimes referred to as “Apple Juice Parties” or “Charity Keggers” in order to have no official association with Shinerama fundraising. It is kind of ridiculous that mature university students feel that they have to host an “Apple Juice Party” in order to raise donations to compete for Faculty Cup glory that is quickly forgotten.

Finally, the irony of fundraising for a health cause, Cystic Fibrosis Canada, by profiting from selling alcohol is rich. Proponents of Shinerama may argue the ultimate goal of raising money for Cystic Fibrosis research justifies the means but many have questioned whether fundraising should even go to CFC or whether it could be more effectively directed.

I’m hoping this article will spark an open discussion on the extreme lengths students feel compelled to go to in order to raise money for Shinerama. Although this practice may gradually cease as university Welcome Weeks are increasingly scrutinized, they might also be simply pushed further underground.


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