Despite frosh moving online, unsanctioned student parties expected in Montreal

Student residences at McGill are open with some international students expected to arrive in Montreal from abroad.

Student residences at McGill are open, with some international students expected to arrive from abroad

First-year university students usually take to the streets of Montreal in colorful T-shirts as the fall semester begins, but that won't be the case this year. (McGill University)

The beginning of September usually brings hordes of fresh-faced university students on the streets of Montreal, roaming in groups and revelling in organized back-to-school festivities, commonly known as frosh.

While that won't be the case this year, with frosh events at Concordia University and McGill University happening only virtually, organizers say they still anticipate students will be meeting in-person to party. 

"There's only so much we can do. We can't attach ankle monitors on people, you know?" said Kristen Karlsen, a third-year Concordia student who has been tasked with organizing frosh week for students enrolled in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

The resumption of campus life has already been linked with several outbreaks of COVID-19 in other countries.

In the United States, several universities are scrambling to contain outbreaks of COVID-19, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. According to the New York Times, at least 6,600 cases have been linked with American colleges.

"I wouldn't be surprised if that will happen here," said Joella Reev, a third-year student and the frosh director for McGill's school of physical and occupational therapy.

"Social interactions, in person, are very important, and people will go beyond anything to keep [that] going," she said.

Students like Reev and Karlsen have organized a virtual frosh to give students a chance to feel like they're able to participate in these events without having to go outside. 

Karlsen says she's been taking a careful approach to organizing frosh at Concordia. There are no in-person activities and merchandise, like T-shirts, will be mailed out to minimize contact.

But she doubts every student will stay isolated throughout frosh week — especially with around 65 per cent of attendees expected to be in Montreal.

"We have a safety guide that we publish on our website for all of the froshies that, say, if they are to go outside, these are the things you should do: Always wear a mask, at least social distance, wash your hands, like all of those kinds of things," she said.

McGill's frosh organizers are making it mandatory for all frosh attendees and staff to complete a 15-minute training, explaining the health guidelines in place in Quebec.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Quebec's Health Ministry urged students to be particularly careful during back-to-school festivities.

"Food and alcohol consumption, and the festive nature of the event increases the number of contacts, and may limit the ability to maintain measures such as two metres' physical distancing," read the statement.

Private gatherings with a maximum of 10 people are allowed under current provincial guidelines. As for public gatherings, a maximum of 250 people are allowed to get together.

Student residences open

Fall classes are primarily happening online at McGill and Concordia, but many students are still travelling to Montreal for their studies, including some international students.

A spokesperson for McGill said many first-year students are moving into residence halls, and returning students are also planning on being in Montreal for the fall semester. 

Students living in those residences will have to wear a mask in all public areas, like elevators, common rooms, and laundry rooms, and a reduced maximum number of students will be permitted in study spaces and common rooms. 

At Concordia, some facilities, like laboratories and art studios, will be used by students.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?