The days marked by purple shirts, anxious parents and excited frosh were quite different this year as the First Days schedule underwent some major reorganization. Though most upperclassmen were still trying to drag out the end of August, the entire freshman class arrived on Tuesday, Aug. 27, and by the end of the day, one of the largest Williams classes in recent history had picked up their keys and moved into their entries.
Security and the Deans’ Office tested out a superb system to keep vehicles off the lawns, in which frosh parked at Poker Flats and had their belongings trucked to the dorms.
Despite initial skepticism on the part of the JAs, few people experienced difficulties with lost or broken belongings, and by 6 p.m. Baxter was stuffed with frosh and JAs, all trying to get a piece of the First Night pasta action with their entry dinners.
Energy was high that night, despite the countless 2000-pound boxes moved in earlier that day. But with nothing specifically planned for that evening, the atmosphere was a little bit antsy.
More could have been done on first night to engage and entertain the frosh, but all in all the day was a great success.
The JAs were very busy with the late frosh arrivals that night and also scrambled to finish entry banners and glue together room signs. The new First Days schedule cut back on the time we had to prepare the entries, and an extra day or two for JA move-in would have made this period much less stressful.
First Days then went into full swing, with the standard class photograph, programs and addresses in Chapin Hall and Towne Field House dinners. An outdoor ACE movie planned for Sawyer lawn ended up inside Bronfman Auditorium, but the loads of popcorn and soda still managed to draw quite a crowd.
An “unscheduled” DJ party at the Log, covertly organized by the Dean’s Office and advertised by word-of-mouth, was also a success and was a great improvement over the Goodrich parties of previous years. Despite middle-school style, arms-length dancing and the preponderance of wallflowers, the Log filled up quickly and everyone appeared to have a good time.
The majority of events (and exams) of First Days were otherwise unchanged, and though there were no giant purple balloons pointing out First Night events, the ’06ers went through the same enjoyable but fast-paced experience that most upperclassmen remember.
IDs were distributed several days later once Security (working through the night) had photographed and printed all 543 of them. JAs (and Dining Services) expressed some initial skepticism, but due to Security’s vigilance even this aspect went without a hitch.
A notable difference was the fact that entries were the first social group the frosh met and spent time with, as opposed to WOOLF groups or sports teams. As a result, the frosh were very interested in getting to know their suitemates, hall-mates and neighbors, and a strong sense of entry community was established from the very start.
WOOLF may have suffered a bit from this early sense of “home,” because many frosh expressed a desire to be back under a roof with their entry, rather than under a tarp near Mt. Greylock.
“Where Am I?”, a new program for first-years during the mid-orientation period (an alternative to WOOLF, WOW, etc.) received mixed reviews. Several daytrips, including a trip to Tanglewood, concerts on campus, a trip to Mass MoCA and community service activities, were the highlights of the program and individually went over quite well. Overall, however, the freshman did not feel an obligation to attend the lackluster “Where Am I?” events, and after the first day, many frosh were instead aimlessly wandering around campus.
Frosh complained that the events lasted too long and that others were not very attractive to a wide variety of students. “Where Am I?” could be much improved with some revamping and a few insightful ideas, but its debut showed promise.
Frosh who chose not to participate in WOOLF or “Where Am I?” tired easily because of their inordinate amounts of free time. Nothing was specifically planned and one can only spend so many hours setting up a room.
JAs, however, appreciated the time to sleep in, wash their shirts and take a breather before the crazy start of classes. However, we feel that the mid-orientation period could be improved to a point where all new students have an entertaining and absorbing program to attend. It was just not feasible to amuse the hundred or so kids who remained on campus.
All things considered, the new First Days was an amazing improvement over the chaos that most upperclassmen experienced, and Security, the Dean’s Office and Buildings & Grounds should be commended for its smooth implementation.