Bear Beginnings needs a fresh start

Classes begin tomorrow, with some 1,600-odd new students embarking on their first-ever day of college. This first day of classes, a mad free-for-all of lost freshmen and jaded upperclassmen trying to navigate our campus during the 10-minute passing period and get lunch in the Danforth University Center, lies in sharp contrast with Bear Beginnings, which is full of all-day programming. The transition from orientation to classes is sudden and can be very jarring for a wide-eyed freshman trying to adjust to college life. Furthermore, some of these freshmen have already been here for a week as part of their pre-orientation program and are understandably suffering from programming fatigue after pre-orientation and Bear Beginnings. We believe that there are changes that can be made to Bear Beginnings to make orientation a better experience for all freshmen as well as prevent the first week of classes from being so chaotic for the entire university.

One change that is worth exploring is moving Convocation to the last day of Bear Beginnings. As it stands now, Convocation is on the very first day, which means that more than half of the freshmen have just finished moving in, one of the most stressful times during your college career. This year, move-in went very smoothly, especially considering the South 40 Swamp was off-limits to cars. The Office of Residential Life and all those who volunteered deserve recognition for a job well-done. However, it was an exhausting process, and having to put on a massive event following that seems like a needless stress on everyone involved. While we recognize that Convocation is very important for parents, too, Bear Beginnings should be serving the freshmen first. Simply serving Ted Drewes in Brookings Quadrangle could be a possibility for a goodbye event with the parents. Giving students time to gel with their floor and residential college and learn about their traditions and mascots before they spend an entire night cheering for them would vastly increase the meaningfulness of the experience.

Bear Beginnings is oversaturated with programming, and not all of this programming is useful or needs to happen during students’ first week on campus. One area that is really lacking in exposure during orientation is social justice, something that became painfully obvious during various controversies last year. The Freshman Reading Program attempts to cover these ideas but in an ultra-specific way. Perhaps a more general social justice discussion or training regarding issues of diversity would be a better use of the freshmen’s time and stick with them longer than a brief conversation about a book some might not even have read. Additionally, programs like SUp All Night could be moved to different nights during the First 40 Days to prevent programming fatigue in the freshmen. Topics covered in The Date and Choices are necessary to learn during those first few days on campus; learning about Student Union and campus clubs can wait a week.

Lastly, the freshmen could use a few more practical tips about life at Wash. U. Teaching them some basic abbreviations or reviewing a map of campus would hopefully prevent all the new students from being half an hour late to their first class. And while things like not using trays or how to order at the Grizzly Grill in Bear’s Den may seem intuitive to upperclassmen, nobody has ever told the newcomers how we do things here. An “Inside scoop about Wash. U.” could be a fun, more informal bonding experience with their residential advisors and Washington University Student Associates. Rather than simply throwing them into the water, we should first teach them how to swim.

  • A parent

    Not having parents present for convocation would be a huge mistake. Those we attended with felt it was a masterpiece of energy and enthusiasm. Dean Smith’s keynote set the tone for what we believe our son’s entire time at WashU will be all about.

    Parents are launching their students into the future, along with our tuition dollars. We were there for the right of passage, not for the ice cream.

  • Go Bear

    As is customary in most StudLife piece, this article lacks a lot of research and foresight that make it a worthwhile contribution to planning the next Bear Beginnings. The event is highly intentional, the product of discussions within the university, with first year students, and with colleagues at peer institutions across the country. These discussions are focused on what helps students acclimate best to college at a time when they’re excited and ready to take in new information. Events like Convocation or SUp All Night help students establish communities early on with those they live with and those with similar interests. Not everyone may take advantage of the opportunity in front of them in the same way, but those kinds of experiences and communities are what students cite as being wildly important come Day One.

    I think this is a great conversation to have, but your thoughts would be far more meaningful if you at least cited opinions of students or spoke with those involved in planning Orientation. And be less dramatic. Bear Beginnings needs a “fresh start” to teach someone not to use a tray or how to order food?

    • Anonymoose

      ed·i·to·ri·al (d-tôr-l, -tr-)
      1. An article in a publication expressing the opinion of its editors or publishers.

      • Parsimonious Radish

        I don’t think there was anything in that comment to indicate that the author didn’t understand what he was reading.