Politically active Montreal students managed to distract almost 200 freshers from the usually inebriating and unconcerned fresher activities for first-year students last week with an alternative slate of events.
McGill University's rugby field projected a typical image of freshers'
week. It offered attractions including a rock concert and games of Frisbee took place amid fluttering flags sporting beer-company logos.
The scene at the nearby student union building was rather different: almost 200 students sat in on workshops that discussed issues ranging from transsexuality to third-world debt, munched on a vegan lunch and were introduced to Montreal's political activism.
The three-day Radical Frosh, now in its seventh year, is designed to provide an introduction to progressive politics, social justice and environmental action at McGill, say the student organisers.
While the give-away items for traditional Frosh week were packaged in a popular brewery's beer-bottle carton, Radical Frosh attendees went home with cotton bags and reusable sealable storage containers.
Although they are willing to hear about oppression while fellow students learn first-hand about debauchery, students at Radical Frosh also did some drinking themselves, with a pub crawl in Montreal's Gay Village.
Organiser Brianna Hersey, with fiery red-hair, blond-tipped Mohawk and chrome studs on lip and tongue, was telling a few students how to find a loft party later. "It'll be the place with the anarchist logo on the front door."
Students gave different reasons for attending. Ben Bruce said he was attracted by the vegan meal and learning more about immigrant issues. Rachel Marcuse appreciated not seeing advertising logos and relief from fresher activities.
For the workshops, students sat in circles or on couches. One lecture questioned why world leaders have not put a priority on feeding their citizens. Others discussed Arab-Israeli politics, food politics, workers' rights, aboriginal history and environmental racism.