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University frosh week moves online amid COVID-19 pandemic

Last Updated Aug 26, 2020 at 8:19 pm EST

MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – Large groups of students in colourful t-shirts occupying downtown streets, chanting and hopping from one party to the next – it’s a staple of frosh week every year near the end of August.

Thousands of first-year university students sign up to frosh-week orientation events en masse as a fun way to meet people, get to know their campus and break the ice as they cross a new educational threshold.

But like many events that require large gatherings, frosh week at universities across Canada is going virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year, frosh is online completely,” said Eduardo Malorni, the student life coordinator at Concordia’s student union. “We’ve moved all the events that we do in person to either YouTube, Zoom or Skype.”

But with frosh events specifically designed to be one energetic party, some university officials believe students may ignore COVID-19 restrictions and be tempted to meet in person.

“Students could gather or think about gathering,” said Brodie Barrick, who oversees orientation and special projects at Ryerson. “That’s always something that’s on the front of our minds. We’re hoping that students are being respectful and being safe.”

It’s something many American schools are battling right now. According to the New York Times, at least 6,600 coronavirus cases have been linked with American colleges.

Other universities like McGill in Montreal aren’t outright banning in-person events but are discouraging students from meeting in person.

“The safety, health, and wellbeing of our frosh participants is our highest priority and, as such, we do not approve of any in-person events that are held in the name of frosh,” the university said in a statement.

Stephanie Adipietro, who is entering McGill in the fall, says the school has been communicating safety guidelines in the event of any parties.

“They haven’t completely banned it but they’ve given people resources,” said Adipietro, who added she won’t be attending any in-person frosh events. “So if people want to drink, if they want to go to bars, there are still ways to do it in a safe way even if we aren’t meant to do it.”