An investigation of the changes to the 2014 First Year Orientation
“You will meet your husband at Domerfest.” “Zahm is the worst.” “Get as many girls’ numbers on your shirt as you can!”
We are all familiar with these kinds of off-hand remarks made during Frosh-O weekend. This year, the Frosh-O staffs worked with the Student Campus Orientation Committee (SCOC) to move towards a more accepting Frosh-O experience, promoting fun activities across gender lines rather than relying solely on interactions between dorms of the opposite sex.
Perhaps the most significant change to Frosh-O this year along those lines was the location and set-up of Domerfest.
Shannon Montague, a member of the SCOC, told the Rover: “Originally [the change in location of Domerfest from the Stepan Center to Rolfs] stemmed from the fact that we couldn’t use Stepan because of all the construction, but then it ended up being really good because there was just a small tent for the sweaty-grind-fest that is often characteristic of the Frosh-O dance.…There were a lot of different activities both inside and outside of Rolfs. People could use the basketball courts, there was food everywhere, there were free massages inside….The focus was definitely not on female-male interaction—it was really just everyone enjoying themselves and doing what they wanted to do and meeting people while they did it.”
Anna Bradley, a freshman in Farley Hall, commented on the event: “I thought Domerfest was a lot of fun. It was nice because—for me personally—with the other Frosh-O activities—you are meeting with the dorms and in a way being forced to mingle. Domerfest was nice in the sense that we could do our own things. That was the activity I had the most fun at—I liked being free to talk to people.”
Another change to Frosh-O included a push for more events between dorms of the same sex. Deirdre Harrington, the head of SCOC, told the Rover, “We tried to encourage having more events with same-sex dorms to foster sisterhood and brotherhood not only just within your own hall, but with other halls across campus … Really stressing that we want every single new Domer to feel welcome and a part of the family.”
One of these events brought multiple men’s residence halls together for a celebration of dudes.
Keenan Hall Frosh-O commissioner John Wiese described the Dudefest event as “[t]he unique celebration of all things dude. Dudefest was the brainchild of the men’s dorms participating in order to break the mold of the constant opposite sex frosh-o events. Dudefest will include grilling, games, sports, music, and last but not least dudes. Often times at ND guys aren’t given as much of a chance to meet and make important relationships with guys from other dorms. We aim to change that.”
Wiese commented on the event: “We felt that the event was a huge success. The variety of events allowed dudes to make dude-friends at their own speed. Ryan [the other Keenan Hall commissioner] and I saw that everyone seemed to be relaxed and comfortable, a rarity over frosh-o weekend. We hope that this event will continue to improve and expand in the coming years to bring dudes together.”
Allison Walker, a member of the Farley Frosh-O staff, described a picture scavenger hunt event Farley had with Ryan: “A lot of frosh-o weekend designates time to introducing boys and girls. I think that this scavenger hunt event with another girl’s dorm allowed the girls to meet each other, but also kept them occupied running around campus. (And seriously, who at ND doesn’t love a little friendly competition?)….The event with Ryan (and the other events Farley did with girls dorms) were extremely successful in integrating and uniting girls from different parts of campus.”
Frosh-O commissioners received training from the SCOC in the spring semester before Frosh-O. This training included awareness that “heteronormativity”—the assumption that everyone is heterosexual—should be avoided.
When asked about the emphasis in breaking down heteronormativity in these training sessions, Sean Morrison, the Frosh-O commissioner of Stanford Hall, told the Rover, “I think the commissioner training does not really play too much of a role in breaking down heteronormativity, but I think it has a different role to play in regards to Frosh-O….The fact of the matter is that heterosexuality represents the majority of students across campus, and that for any member of the LGBTQ community, learning to live in a heteronormative environment is actually important. If LGBTQ individuals get mad over each and every little thing that might be heteronormative, then they are never going to be happy at this university (or any university for that matter).”
Morrison went on to say, “Now, here is what I think is important about the commissioner training sessions. In these sessions, they stressed the importance of not creating a homo-hostile (and yes I made that word up) environment. There is a huge difference [between] an environment where things may be heteronormative and an environment where members of the LGBTQ community feel threatened or uncomfortable because of undue remarks about their sexuality.
Commissioner training does a good job (especially by bringing in PrismND) of making the commissioners aware of the small things they need to avoid (such as saying ‘that’s so gay’) … The point of it all is to increase the awareness of the pain/isolation that phrases like that can cause, which in my opinion is different than breaking down the heteronormativity. Rather, it is calling for an inclusive environment by not deliberately excluding certain members due to their sexuality.”
Caroline Corsones is a junior English major with a minor in business economics. She wants to swing from the chandelier. Contact her at email@example.com.