For the first time since 2019, all three U of T campuses held in-person orientations to welcome incoming first-year students. This comes after U of T removed all mask and physical distancing requirements over the summer. Masks are now encouraged by the university in places where it is difficult to social distance and the university remains a “mask-friendly environment.”
The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) hosted its in-person orientation on September 6–7, which featured events like the Loud Luxury concert and the Clubs Fair.
The Tri-Campus Parade is one of the only events that includes students from all three campuses and is an excuse for students to show their school spirit. On September 6, the UTSU also announced that the tri-campus parade, which was scheduled for September 7, was cancelled because of staffing issues with the Toronto Police Services.
Despite the cancellation of the Tri-Campus Parade, students were still able to participate in a “Cheer-Off” on the Varsity Field.
Throughout the two days food trucks were present and UTSU sponsors, including Rexall and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), were handing out merchandise.
UTSU Vice President, Student Life Elizabeth Shechtman confirmed in a statement that the estimated attendance for the Student Commons grand opening was over 1,500 students, while the Loud Luxury concert drew 2,000, the Cheer off received over 8,000, and the Clubs Fair saw over 10,000 students.
“There were only four main events, as we did not want to plan more to interfere with other smaller orientation plans,” she wrote.
The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) held their orientation, called VENTURE 22, from September 4–9.
Events included a sex ed disco consent workshop, a glow-in-the-dark-themed pub night, an outdoor movie night, and a carnival.
Nikayla Maraj — a life science student and attendee at the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) orientation — told The Varsity, “I liked seeing all the ‘froshies’ together on the first day and I had a ton of fun at pub night and the paint party… more fun than my prom.” The foam and paint party was an outdoor, pub-like event where students were covered in foam and paint.
Karen Li, another attendee, went to all of the UTMSU’s events. “I feel like the funnest [sic] part of the event is probably the foam party because there’s a lot of people.”
Li also commented on the tri-campus parade cancellation: “I didn’t quite like how they made this decision [to cancel], because… a lot of people [were] really excited.”
Some students were forced to choose between events that were happening simultaneously. The UTMSU held an escape room at the same time as the foam and paint party. Meaghan Foster, a life science student said, “I really liked the escape room but I regret not going to the foam party.”
The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) hosted its student frosh event REVIVAL from August 30 to September 1. The union lined up a variety of events, including a street fest and a DJ party.
“REVIVAL symbolizes the rebirth and the reconstruction of a brand new year,” said Alyssia Fernandes, the SCSU’s vice-president campus life, in an interview with The Varsity. She believes that orientation events are a way of bringing back UTSC traditions after the COVID-19 pandemic. The name also takes inspiration from the hardships students must overcome in order to succeed.
Fernandes shared that the event was well received, with 800 students in attendance.
Still, Fernandes explained that ensuring student attendance for the event was one of the main concerns the union had throughout the planning process. “COVID cases were on the rise again… [and] there’s a bunch of other health concerns. So, it was a little bit difficult trying to figure out what frosh would look like without the amount of students that we intended.”
In an attempt to alleviate attendance concerns and to safeguard against the potential of worsening public health concerns, the SCSU incorporated hybrid and fully online options into the planning process.
While the union was ultimately able to host the event in person, Fernandes believes that the SCSU was successful in creating a safe environment with regard to public health. “We are taking the appropriate measures, everyone’s going to be wearing masks, there’s hand sanitizer… and most of the events are outside,” Fernandes said of the orientation.
Students in attendance expressed happiness with the in-person event.
Shahmeer, a business management student, said,“[I liked] the street fest last night, I liked all the events here, and the free ice cream. Who’s complaining about free ice cream?”
Dujanah, a computer science student, said, “Personally, I don’t think that [the] university has done enough for us to make friends. So, you can only make friends if you’re social.” She appreciated the SCSU events because they allowed students to interact in person.
Dujanah added that she was still concerned about COVID-19 safety, but explained that “it doesn’t come to mind as often as it did… three years ago.”