UPEI works to avoid orientation problems

Alcohol forbidden at sanctioned orientation week events as administration works to keep out of trouble other schools have faced

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on September 2, 2014

Sherrilyn Baw, left, of Trinidad, a first-year food nutrition student at UPEI, and Heeyoung Son, a UPEI nursing student and volunteer during orientation at the university, enter the K.C. Irving chemistry building for an orientation session for international students Friday. Classes begin this week at the university.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

When Jamaican student Nathalie Coke started orientation week at UPEI, she wasn’t expecting to spend that time partying.

She was expecting to get a lot of information to help her adjust to university life and that’s what she said she got.

“Orientation has been good so far,” she said.

UPEI’s orientation week started Friday, Aug. 29, with sessions for international students and runs through to Sept. 6 with a range of activities that include a distinct lack of alcohol-fueled events that have landed some other universities in trouble in recent years.

The administration’s hope is that UPEI will avoid some of the pitfalls other schools have faced in recent years, such as a controversial frosh chant at St. Mary’s University or worse.

Coke said she didn’t know partying on campus was a big thing at some universities in Canada so she didn’t expect it at UPEI.

“I just read that this place was a bit laid back and relaxed,” she said.

UPEI student union president Lucas MacArthur said he thinks many people

have the perception that the first week of university is crazy.

That’s not what UPEI’s orientation is about, he said.

“It’s definitely just developing relationships and kind of discovering what UPEI has to offer.”

MacArthur said orientation leaders sign a code of conduct and there is zero tolerance for drinking at any of the events because it’s all about being safe and having fun.

“Usually when alcohol gets involved there’s a lot more issues,” he said.

For Treena Smith, UPEI’s manager of student affairs, she said the administration works hard to build a relationship between staff and the student union, which she sees as vital.

“That is one of our strongest assets at the university is our relationship with Lucas and his team.”

Smith said everybody at the university views student safety as a priority.

“Anybody’s biggest fear is that we’re going to have a student at risk and they don’t know how to access help.”

Things have changed in recent years with the growth of social media and easy access to camera phones, meaning when there are issues like the St. Mary’s chant, they can become public very quickly.

Those are all things the university community has to respond to, Smith said.

“We’re in a new age.”

But she also said students have to take responsibility for their actions.

“Hopefully they can do that and understand what the ramifications are.”