For those who haven't seen/heard/read the article that was published in the McGill Daily yesterday, please check it out here.
The author of this article cites Molson Hall (and McGill residences as a macrocosm) to be the epicentre of a certain type of drinking and partying culture, one that specifically caters to white, heterosexual, cis-gender, able-bodied males, or, as it's known in laymen's terms, bro culture. She specifically points to her time in Molson Hall as being the least inclusive of all residences. The author writes that she lived in Molson, initially unaware of its reputation for being the party res of McGill, and that it emulated a very particular social hierarchy that resembled something close to what she had experienced in high school. She points out that power is wielded to those people who choose to partake in behaviour akin to Molson Hall (drinking, smoking, and partying) and that she was somehow judged or felt beneath others since she didn't participate in these activities. She never took part in a single party or event at Molson because she apparently knew it would be unwelcoming, due to the proliferating bro culture. She also pointed out that the hookup culture in rez is favourable towards men, demeaning to women, and completely alienates the queer narrative. Finally, she points to the perpetuating of whiteness in rez.
This piece resonated with me for several reasons. Myself and the author are both women of colour and lived in Molson Hall, a year apart from each other. Given the considerations that the author makes in her article, you would think that we would have had similar experiences. However, this is far from the truth.
My first glimpse into the Molson Hall experience came when I had decided I was going to be studying at McGill after all, and I immediately delved into more research to find out what the different residences had to offer. I was drawn into a whirlwind of multimedia sources, through lip dubs and tours on Youtube, Facebook, multiple forums, and of course, the Unofficial McGill guide, which all pointed to Molson Hall as the party res of McGill, leading me to rank it as my first choice. The amount of resources available on the reputations of different McGill residences clearly was not lost on the author either, as she states "Molson is a self-fulfilling prophecy: people choose it because of its reputation for partying, and the partying reputation exists because of the people that choose it. The Unofficial McGill Guide knows this, students know this, floor fellows know this, even the McGill administration knows this". This was definitely more of the environment that I wanted to get from living in residence, however there is a lot of people who don't necessarily go seeking out the kinds of experiences that Molson Hall can offer. That is why it is highly encouraged to do research, not just on the living conditions, but also on the different reputations of each residence. When it comes to diversity in residences, I'd say McGill presents a number of different options. There are residences that are over 50 years old and residences that only opened a couple years ago. Some residences are home to 700 students, while others only house 20 or 30. Some contain all single rooms, while some are shared. Finally, there's even a res that is removed from the rest of the downtown/campus environment, for those who prefer apartment-style living and independence. Not every single res offers the same experience that Molson does by any means, and to typecast the entire res experience as such would be failing to recognize the unique facets that each res has to offer.
It has been commented that if the author didn't enjoy her time in Molson, she should've switched, which isn't necessarily a fair proposition to make without proper knowledge of the author's personal situation and background. Moving residences does cost extra, and can be a hassle, especially for those people who have come from far away and bring a large quantity of belongings with them, all which can be further complicated due to timing issues, especially if the move can only occur during midterms. That being said, it is 100% possible to do, and I saw multiple people moving in and out of Molson in my year there, both to other residences as well as off-campus housing.
The author then comments that after her first few days, cliques formed and the social structure of Molson resembled the social hierarchy of high school. Personally, I found my experience to be incredibly different. There are a number of reasons as to why this could have happened, but regardless, I experienced something that was quite the opposite of what the author did. Coming out of a high school that was very small and had a very pronounced social hierarchy, I have to admit I was worried as to whether the Molson community would emulate the same thing. In high school, I would definitely not call myself someone at the top of the social hierarchy, making my transition into res life a little more precarious. However, the first night of res saw everyone mingling with another and getting to know each other, without many judgements made or cliques formed right away. From what I experienced, everyone was eager to get to know each other and have a good time as a collective residence. I remember remarking several times on the fact that there were people that I became friends with right away in Molson that I felt I never would have been friends with in high school because of all the social constructs that came with that period in my life. However as a res, it seemed that everyone was of the mindset that we were all there to have a good time. Obviously people did have certain friends that they were closer to than others, but I can safely say on the whole, people got along and were willing to all attend events and parties all together, because we knew those kinds of things would be more fun if we knew more people.
It wasn't as though every single resident in Molson was on the same level of partying or did the exact same white, male, bro-y things for fun. I can personally remember certain nights where I stayed in to do laundry while I watched all my friends go out to clubs or parties, and surely there are others who lived in Molson who will tell you the same thing. The Molson experience is not a one-size-fits-all type of deal. And failing to take part in rez experiences and activities because one assumes that they're not going to have a good time is a pretty harsh judgement to make. Again, this could depend on a number of factors, but being a part of Molson Council last year has led me to believe that residences are making greater strides towards event inclusivity. Not all of our events comprised of drinking or party-related activities, and for those that did, we tried to make them more accessible by including elements that everyone could enjoy.
As for the res experience being primarily catered to the while, able bodied, cis-gender,heterosexual male: in case no one has noticed, this is the very small percentage of the population that most, if not every Western world societal structure is catered to. And maybe, down to microanalysis, the res experience is no exception, but to frame it as though it is one of few institutions that is perpetuating this experience is to ignore the way our society functions. Is it right? Obviously not, but neither is somehow attacking res as the university's worst enemy of intersectionality and diversity. Efforts are being made to help educate students within res on such issues, an example of which is Res Project, a workshop designed to teach people in residence about the idea of a safe space and diverse identities. Granted, this is a system that could use some overhauling- my Res Project experience was highly negative, mostly due to the attitudes of the facilitators themselves. They seemed out of touch and disengaged with the material, and setting the stage for students that Res Project is just some obligatory thing they have to get over with at least once in their life is not the proper way to allow students to critically think and learn (sometimes, for the first time in their lives) about these issues. Despite these problems, the concept of Res Project is one that I believe can continue to evolve for the better and engage students with regards to these different types of issues.
It is possible I missed the whole point of this article. Maybe the point is that res experiences shouldn't be homogenous. Why should we have a specific res for people who party, and one for people who get scholarships through McGill, and one where most people are music students? Why can't every res have a diverse representation of different identities and unique experience? Here's why: first year, for many students, is the first time they'll be able to meet people with similar interests, form friendships, and create connections. Granted, a lot of this can be done through extracurriculars or class, but the bulk of time and activities spent in first year are done through res and the people you meet when you're there. While it is important to meet a diverse group of people in your time at university, it is also important for people to feel like they're surrounded amongst likeminded individuals who understand and respect that their first year experience is ultimately what they make of it. A varsity athlete who has to wake up at 5:00 am for practises probably wouldn't want to live with someone who stays up till the early hours of the morning partying and blasting music in their room. Someone who wants to use their room as a social space for friends to hang out at all times probably wouldn't want to live around or with someone who expects privacy and quiet at all times.
Everyone's res experience is what they make of it. That being said, the point of this piece was not to discredit the author or the experiences she had during her time in Molson. It is simply to offer the perspective of a similar person who was placed in a similar situation. I personally loved my time in Molson and looking back on it, would not change a thing.
This just goes to show that everyone's experience with residence life is going to be unique, and whether you loved or hated your time in res, your experiences and your opinions are totally valid as they relate to you. There are probably few things the general res experience gives everyone to agree on- except maybe for the fact that BMH is the best dining hall in the whole world.