Since time immemorial, students have always sought a way to make new students "official" members of Skule™. It was in that spirit that the original F!rosh Weeks were carried out. Mostly the responsibility of the second years, those events typically involved a simple afternoon of hazing, followed by a large F!rosh-Soph banquet to show that there were no hard feelings. These orientations tended to involve whatever physical abuses or humiliations the second years could think of, but this was all quite acceptable at the time. In those days, there was a strong sense of camaraderie among the engineers that diminished significantly during the '60's and '70's, but is now again on the rise. In fact, Dean C.H. Mitchell, who became dean in 1919, insisted that he too was a "freshman" and decided to endure the same initiation as the other F!rosh.
The 1919-1920 F!rosh year, however, consisted of a large number of returning veterans from World War I, and staged a revolt known as The Great F!rosh Uprising of 1919.
By the 1920's, orientations had become a bit more structured. The following "Rules for Freshmen" were published annually in that venerable paper the Toike Oike from the '20's through the '40's:
"The first group of Rules will be enforced during the whole of the School (sic) year."
- The first year will supply all fatigue parties required by the Engineering Society Executive. These parties will be detailed by the first year Executive.
- The first year will provide one man daily, to report to the President of the Engineering Society, for whatever services may be required.
- The east door of the Engineering Building shall not be used by any Freshmen.
- Freshmen must not wear Spats or Derbies.
"The following Rules must be observed up to the time of the School initiation."
- All Freshmen will wear a green tie of the style approved and supplied by the Supply Department of the Engineering Society.
- All Freshmen will enter the school building by the basement doors only.
- Freshmen will remove their hats in all school buildings"
The "green ties" mentioned were a big part of early orientations, enduring up until the 1950's. All F!rosh would be issued one, to be worn for the duration of the week, not unlike modern yellow hardhats. Also like modern F!rosh hardhats, jealous members of other faculties and colleges would persistently try to steal them. Indeed, the early initiations were often referred to as "tie-cutting season" for that reason. Other students would attempt to cut a F!rosh's tie off from just below the knot, and bags of these so-called "tie scalps" were prized by all. If a F!rosh were particularly unlucky, he might find himself disrobed, painted and have his clothes hung in a tree by hordes of overzealous students from other colleges.
By the 1930's, orientations were starting to get out of hand. In 1932, a scrap in the Skulehouse (the original engineering building, demolished in 1966 to make way for the Med building) ended with what the Varsity described as "rather severe handling of the Dean (C. H. Mitchell)". In response, the Dean banned initiations in favour of a "modernized reception" for the F!rosh. He was only partly successful, though. Green ties, Freshmen dances and toned-down initiations remained right through to the '50's. In addition, a new part of orientation appeared: engineering caps. These striped caps were worn for many years in addition to the green ties. Then in 1954, things took a turn for the worse. Campus tours had always been a big part of orientation, and on such a tour that year, Trinity, Vic and UC were looted by the F!rosh. Apart from property damage, the UC registrar was injured in the fray. The University responded by suspending the Engineering Society's constitution and giving the Engineering Faculty Council the sole power to reinstate it. But just when things were looking bleak, Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto, leaving massive damage. The engineers responded in massive numbers, donating both money and manpower to the cleanup effort. In all, over 1100 engineers turned out to help, versus a paltry 200 from the rest of the university. The faculty council reinstated the EngSoc constitution and from that point, orientation began to take on a more constructive format. It is from here that modern f!rosh week charity events evolved. After the looting, green ties and engineering caps were officially banned, but in their place, hardhats came into use.
During the 1970's, many of the f!rosh week events we now know and love were born. The Oath of Initiation was drafted during that time period and the annual Scavenger Hunt was started. Unfortunately, an increasing sense of political correctness saw a significant decline in the more humiliating aspects of initiation that carried on into the 1980's, culminating in what is now F!rosh Week.
History adapted from Adam Trumpour, Archivist 0T2 - 0T3 and originally published in the Cannon; Volume XX, Issue I
The Great F!rosh Uprising of 1919
As all students are aware, F!rosh Week tends to involve imposing certain indignities on the incoming f!rosh (all in good fun, of course!). Well, this was even truer in the ancient past than it is today, but nevertheless, F!rosh Leedurs seldom had much difficulty keeping the new f!rosh in line. But all this was to change dramatically when the Class of 2T3 came along.
For those who know their history, this class began their Skule careers in the 1919-1920 skule year, immediately after the First World War. Not surprisingly, this class was composed overwhelmingly of former army, navy and air force servicemen. The First Year President himself had been a front-line infantry officer, and he decided that this time, the f!rosh would reverse things and initiate the leedurs. When his class was asked to present themselves at the old gymnasium behind North House to be initiated, the rebellion began. Being the experienced officer he was, he quickly assembled a corps of followers and organized them along military lines.
His Intelligence Section managed to ascertain the plan of the f!rosh leedurs, reporting to their commander that they would be gathering in the gymnasium to set things up for the initiation. The f!rosh were then to be admitted into the room at a controlled rate where they would be initiated. Keen tactician that he was, the f!rosh president-turned-Commander decided that the best course of action would be to trap the leedurs in the gym and instead control their exit, administering their own initiation as they came. Accordingly, one f!rosh Division was to lock all doors from the outside, except for one three-by-three foot door at ground level which would be used as the control exit. Another was to cut off all lights to the building, while a third would inject just enough ammonia into the gym to make the leedurs willing to escape as fast as possible.
The day of the initiations came, and as expected, the leedurs gathered in the gym. When the f!rosh failed to show up, there was some concern, but nobody took it very seriously. That is, until all the lights died. Then there was a loud crash as a skylight was shattered and a glass container of liquid ammonia plummeted to the floor. As the stifling, noxious vapours filled the room, the leedurs began to panic and made a rush for the doors, only to find all but one of them locked. Outside, the f!rosh were undoubtedly feeling quite pleased with themselves, but this was short-lived. As the first leedurs began to exit from the small control door, they seemed to be gasping for air and collapsing to the ground a good deal more than was intended. This, combined with the loud screams of agony from within the gym, led the f!rosh to believe that all was not well. The large doors were opened and there followed a mass exodus of the leedurs, many of whom fell to the grass. But fortunately, within minutes most had recovered. The f!rosh that remained on the scene were then subjected to an unplanned, uncommonly rough initiation by the leedurs. Among them was the leader of the insurrection.
Oddly enough, no f!rosh classes have ever attempted such a large-scale revolt since that time. Still, I figured it was probably best to tell this story after F!rosh Week. We wouldn't want people getting any ideas now, would we?
Written by Adam Trumpour, Archivist 0T2 - 0T3 and published in the Cannon; Volume XX, Issue II