In my first year at uni I saw mobs of mimes, gawked at strange wooden statues exhibited on South Lawn and heard whispers of all night scavenger hunts. Unbeknownst to me, all these events were part of Prosh Week. The wonders and shenanigans of Prosh will take place this year from 19-23 September in Week Nine.
But what is Prosh? Prosh is a competition between various big and small teams composed of students who tend to be part of various clubs and societies on campus. Well-known big teams include Eng Donkeys, Pscience, Arts Spoons and MUSKI Huskies. Heavy Metal Warriors – who were last year’s winners – are an example of a smaller team. Students are able to get involved with teams through joining Facebook groups and attending information sessions.
For Cassie Cooke, one of this year’s team captains for Psience, Prosh is an intense and fulfilling week.
“Prosh is a week of ‘organised shenanigans’ where you meet some of the most amazing people and do things you would never think you would do,” Cooke stated.
The origins of Prosh are as elusive as the bodies of the students who participate in nude runs during the week. Farrago has previously reported that Prosh is believed to be a shortening of procession, in which various clubs and societies would parade around the University of Melbourne. An alternative theory is that Prosh is a slurred pronunciation of “posh” which related to how students would dress up in formal attire for the numerous balls and events which took place at the University during September. Whatever the initial origins, the event is now a week-long team event known for its outlandish activities.
Students are encouraged to participate in a range of activities including billycart racing, boat races on the South Lawn moat and various pub crawls where students can attain their Bachelor or Masters of Inebriation. This is something Farrago has long documented. In back editions of this publication one can find mentions of the Engineering Society’s “furious ferrous phallus” and the “Redmond Barry Stair Climb”. Also recorded is the storming of the Bourke Street Myer store in 1971 by 500 students dressed in tuxedos and pyjamas, demanding fair treatment of teddy bears. More recently Alex Fielden – or Captain Goodtimes as he is known to his Arts Spoons teammates – counts constructing an eight-metre version of Mount Rushmore and placing it on South Lawn as one of his most memorable moments.
“Prosh Week, to put it simply, is my favourite week at uni throughout the year” Fielden said enthusiastically.
Despite the culture of pushing boundaries and extreme activities, several interviewees stressed the supportive nature among students and organisers. Tessa Pietsch, a second year Arts student who will compete for Pscience, stresses the lack of coercion among participants.
“No-one is going to push you to do something you’re not comfortable with,” she said.
Piestch believes there is a sense of belonging and community gained from being involved in Prosh.
“I love the inter-team rivalries, the pub nights, the friendships that last far longer than the short week that is Prosh,” she said.
Despite the affirmations of students who have participated in Prosh, the weeklong festivities and events have been subject to criticisms. In 2004, the traditional scavenger hunt – which is a Prosh tradition – was subject to intense scrutiny from local media. The Age reported that the list asked students to locate midget, fat or amputee pornography as well as participate in activities which then Students’ Council chairman Paul Donegan found appalling.
“Some of the things that went on were straight-out sexist, racist and offensive,” Donegan stated. Then Queer Officer Tracey Boyd expressed her disdain and disgust at the non-tolerant and narrow-minded nature of the scavenger hunt.
“It was only available to those who were Caucasian, fully-abled, male and heterosexual or those tolerating of discriminatory attitudes,” she said.
Although this year’s six student judges have been unavailable for comment on specifics of the activities planned for Prosh Week 2016 – given the event’s riotous, raucous and controversial nature – students can expect to see shenanigans and the bare realities of Prosh this year.