First-year students had several options when choosing where to celebrate their first week at UTM this year.
Aside from UTMSU’s annual frosh week, campus groups welcomed first-year students with festivities hosted by the Muslim Students’ Association and the Office of Student Transition, a new department at UTM, which organized a free Eagles Take Off frosh week. The orientation week included campus tours, sessions on time management and critical reading, a yoga class, and a tour of the nature paths on campus.
“I think the students really enjoyed it,” said Chrissy Sharma, a Campus Experience LAUNCH Leader who helped organized Eagles Take Off.
Sharma also said in a telephone interview with The Medium that the Eagles Take Off orientation was in response to feedback administration collected about first-year students in previous years and that the orientation was intended to provide students with a way to learn about the campus and discover resources available to them.
According to Sharma, the Office of Student Transition partnered with other departments, including the UTM International Education Centre, the Health and Counselling Centre, the Office of the Registrar, and the RAWC, to host the activities. Sharma also told The Medium in a telephone interview that many of the activities were hosted concurrently to provide students with the opportunity to choose a session or activity that was of most interest to them.
Sharma was not aware of the total number of students who attended the Eagles Take Off orientation.
The theme of UTMSU’s frosh week was based on the 1996 Warner Bros. movie Space Jam. According to UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe, more than 1,107 students participated in the festivities. Early bird tickets cost $105 while general admission was $125.
“The participation of students at UTMSU organized events and workshops has been phenomenal,” said Agbeyegbe.
UTMSU hosted a carnival, pub night, workshops, and pep rally as part of the week.
In an email to The Medium, UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe spoke against the Eagles Take Off frosh with claims that the new orientation generated competition between the two organizers.
“This is precedent-setting and challenges the partnership we have developed with the university in providing a mix of social and academic programming for incoming first-year students,” wrote Agbeyegbe. “This has also led to an unhealthy competitive atmosphere between UTMSU orientation staff and leaders with student staff working for the Department of Student Affairs/Student Life.”
Sharma, however, claimed the department did not intend to generate any competition between the two groups.
“It was never meant to be a competition,” said Sharma. “It is up to the students to pick and choose what they would like to do and create their own orientation experience.”
According to Agbeyegbe, UTMSU expects to investigate the cost of the Eagles Take Off orientation.
“We will seek to find out how much funds the university administration has spent on the conflicting orientation week programming,” said Agbeyegbe in an email to The Medium.
Mature students frosh
UTMSU also hosted their first mature students’ orientation this year for first-year students 25 years and older.
“[UTMSU] organized an event to create opportunities for mature students to meet other new students, meet industry leaders, and learn more about how they can succeed in the industry they work in,” said Agbeyegbe.
UTMSU encouraged students to participate with their families in events such as a campus meet and greet and a Blue Jays game.
Posing with guns
On August 31 at 11:35 p.m., UTMSU posted photos to their Facebook page in an album titled, “Frosh Welcome Day Photobooth”.
Numerous photos displayed individuals posing with two black replica handguns with an orange tip on the end of the barrel, including some showing students aiming the replica firearms at others.
According to Campus Police Services manager Robert Messacar, the photos did not infringe on any university policies and no complaints were filed. Messacar also informed The Medium that Mark Overton, UTM’s dean of student affairs, was in contact with UTMSU about the photos.
“I asked UTMSU to discourage the use of realistic-looking toy or sport weapons based on the possibility of someone thinking they might be real, which could result in an emergency services response,” said Overton. “UTMSU very quickly removed some related pictures from social media, in support of a safe campus environment.”
According to Agbeyegbe, the photographs were outsourced from a vendor, which at this time cannot be confirmed. The Medium was unable to verify who uploaded the images to the UTMSU Facebook page.
“UTMSU ordered a photobooth from an external vendor,” said Agbeyegbe in an email to The Medium. “Once we became aware of images and the presence of replica toy guns, they were removed due to concerns that students would find the depiction of guns offensive or traumatic.”
By September 2, the photos were removed from the UTMSU Facebook page.