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Gay frosh week a Carleton first

Campus comes out

HUZZAH. Carleton student union organizers Melissa Richmond, Shelley Melanson, Brittany Smyth, Ashley Hunkin and Tim Rose helped organize queer frosh events this year. Credit: (Laura Mueller)

For a lot of young people, making the transition into university is about more than just growing up — it’s about coming out and being who they really are.

Queer students taking that leap at Carleton this year have something else to look forward to — a welcome party for new queer students at the university. It’s Carleton’s first-ever queer frosh.

The three-day event will give new students a chance to meet, mingle and get involved, says the campus’s queer centre co-ordinator, Mike Wiseman.

Volunteer recruitment and educational seminars will take a back seat to social activities at queer frosh, says Wiseman.

“We wanted to start it to give first year students a chance to learn more about queer issues by providing them with educational and fun events to do, rather than just sitting in the centre and listening to lectures,” says Wiseman.

The three-day event will complement the queer centre’s outreach efforts during the traditional orientation activities, says Ashley Hunkin, vice president of student services for the Carleton University Students Association (CUSA).

“The orientation program we run through residence and the university has been really proactive in dealing with not only issues important to the queer-identified students on campus, but just general equity issues,” says Hunkin.

Volunteers for the queer centre will spend the first week handing out pamphlets at orientation and telling new students about the centre’s services, but queer frosh takes over the week after.

“Orientation week at CUSA is a great way to open a dialogue about these issues, and we thought [queer frosh] would be a good follow-up to have immediately in the week after to open people’s eyes to what life is like if you’re a queer-identified student,” says Hunkin.

Wiseman says queer frosh will happen after the main orientation week so that students can go to both events.

“We thought, why not just expand on the idea of frosh — so that’s what we did,” says Wiseman. “We’re expanding frosh to the next week.”

Although Carleton already has three separate frosh events — CUSA’s frosh, Carleton’s academic orientation, and EngFrosh for engineering students — Hunkin says the students’ association passed the proposal for a queer frosh right away.

“It’s a brilliant idea,” says Hunkin, who hopes that queer frosh will help students find out about the other equity centres associated with CUSA in addition to the queer centre.

Queer frosh kicks off with a Pride flag-raising at the University Centre. The three-day event will include traditional frosh activities like a movie night, workshops, a barbeque, and karaoke — with a rainbow twist. The barbeque has been coined the “BBQQ” — bisexual, bi questioning, and queer. A film festival will highlight the best in queer comedic cinema. As for workshops, queer frosh is the only orientation that will teach you how to dress in drag!

Carleton isn’t the first university to queer their frosh week. Wiseman says queer frosh activities at schools like Ryerson and the University Of Toronto were the inspiration for Carleton’s event.

Across the canal, University Of Ottawa frosh of all stripes will be invited to attend a drag show, a formerly annual event recently revived by their Pride Centre coordinator, Alex Kennedy, jointly with Jer’s Vision and Alt101 week.

Wiseman hopes that the extra frosh events will boost the queer centre’s visibility on Carleton campus. All events are wheelchair accessible and open to people of all genders and orientations, including hetero allies.

“It’ll give people who aren’t ready or don’t have time to volunteer an opportunity to get to know more people within the community,” says Wiseman, “Carleton does have a very strong and very accepting community both in its queer students and straight allies.”