Author: Elaine Cook
On June 1st, I headed up to Waterloo for the annual ESSCO AGM with the plan of getting as much information about how other schools do coveralls. For a little back story, McMaster and Western are the only two schools in Ontario that do not have coveralls for all their students as the coveralls are used to represent their orientation week leaders. At Western, the tradition has been for the Sophs to earn their coveralls through the training supplied by the Faculty of Engineering and Western University. These coveralls allow first years to recognize the Sophs during O-Week easily. For the other schools, Coveralls are worn by students at engineering events like bar crawls, spirit days and conferences to bring together the student body. These coveralls are covered with different patches from schools all across the country; some students have even traded various parts of their coveralls like their collars and pockets with other schools. These coveralls bring students together, and it has been something that the students at Western have been missing out.
One year ago, I went to my first conference, ESSCO AGM at Conestoga College. It was there I first witnessed the engineering coverall culture, but unfortunately, I could not participate. When I returned to Western in September, I started to listen to students and hear that they did not feel a part of the engineering community. It was most felt when there were events that engineering spirit wear was encouraged, like Eng Goes to Ceeps or when patches were being sold, but they had nothing to put it on. Since then I have been trying to find a way to bridge the gap between the Canadian engineering tradition of coveralls and Western’s tradition of coveralls.
Of course, Western has the Jersey initiative that was started by Jake Carmen in 2014, but they never seemed to catch on. When speaking with students, I found that the majority of students didn’t see the connection between engineering and hockey jerseys. It wasn’t until I talked with Lesley that the idea came to me: what if the coveralls were a different colour and what if they were earned? The colour purple immediately came to mind, but the process of checking whether a student earned them was a little less defined.
Most schools like Waterloo offer their coverall at their merchandise store for students to buy but I knew that that wouldn’t work at Western. I had heard that Carleton used a passport system to determine if a student was involved within the engineering community before they were awarded coveralls. This way students have to earn the right to wear coveralls by participating in EngSoc run events like going to Formal, participating in a Lunch and Learn, or being a part of a Club. Long story short, I went to ESSCO AGM to talk with Carleton about how they used this system and if it was an effective mean to bridge the gap between Soph Coveralls and Student Coveralls.
Luckily, I had a friend at Carleton who knew the coverall system quite well, and he was also going to ESSCO AGM in Waterloo. We chatted for an hour before getting ready for formal. Carleton’s coveralls or Flightsuits as they are known in Ottawa are organized by an outside group called the Flightsuit Committee, not connected to their EngSoc. Each year a Passport is created with the year’s events including social events and participation in clubs/teams/societies. Throughout the year, students get their passports stamped at each event and then hand their passport into the Flightsuit Committee. Out of the 300 applications, 70 new students each year are recognized for their participation in the engineering community beyond the classroom. Older students who had already earned their Flightsuits are also required to hand in a passport if they want to retire their “nickname”. If the Flightsuit committee believes that the older students have maintained their presence in the engineering community over their four years, then they are allowed to retire their nickname at the Flightsuit Ceremony, barring it from future use. The 70 new students are invited to this annual Flightsuit Ceremony at the end of the year, and the Flightsuit Committee is chosen for the following year. The Flightsuits themselves are not handed out at the beginning of the following school term, allowing time for the orders to be fulfilled.
I talked with other Carleton students that are involved in their EngSocs; I was told that this process enables their students to get involved in unique ways within the engineering community. At first, students go to events for the stamp thinking that they will just leave afterwards, but then they stay. It gets the students engaged and out of their comfort zones. The Flightsuits recognize all the hard work and countless hours the students put in during the year, whether it be joining the Formula SAE or competing in the Engineering Competition.
At the end of the conference, two things were very apparent if Western were ever to get coveralls for its students:
1) They would have to be purple, and
2) They would have to be earned in a similar style to Carleton’s Flightsuits
With this information gathered from Carleton, I now have a better understanding of the detail and planning that is required before coveralls for all students can become a new tradition at Western.