First-years more likely to choose parties over WOOLF

Hike or Party? This was a question on many first years’ minds as they participated in First Days this fall. Since the restructuring of First Days in 2002, first-years have had the opportunity to meet other members of their class on campus before participating in mid-orientation programs such as WOOLF, Where am I?, WOW (Windows on Williams), International Students orientation and the Arts Program. This initial bonding has replaced the orientation trips as the primary way to meet other people and many students are finding socializing with fellow first-years and upperclassmen paramount to spending four days in the woods with a smaller group.

Before 2002, first-years either participated in WOOLF, WOW or the International Student Orientation program as pre-orientation activities; otherwise, they participated in preseason training. Those who chose not to participate in these programs moved in three days later. This format was flipped in 2002, with trips placed in the middle of orientation rather than before, allowing all freshmen to move in at the same time and get acquainted with their entries during First Days before splitting up for various activites.  “The way the class comes together first, I believe, sends an appropriate message about community life at Williams,” said Norma Lopez, assistant dean of the College.

The changes were brought about by those concerned that lines were forming early between interest groups such as athletes in preseason, international students, students on WOOLF and students who participated in WOW. Placing the orientation programs in the middle of First Days allows all the first-years to meet one another as an entry, a unit more representative of the diversity at Williams and then supplement their initial friendships with more interest-based groups. Rachel Williams ’07, said “I was happy to have to the opportunity to meet my entry and lots of other kids before I left with my WOOLF group. I felt more comfortable with my entry when I got back because we already knew each other.”

Ryan Belmont ’05, a JA in Sage F, agreed that the format allowed first- years to feel more comfortable within their entry groups. “I think my entry is much closer as a result of the new format,” he said. Belmont’s first year, “Groups definitely formed early. The athletes hung out with the athletes, the WOOLF kids with WOOLF kids, and there was already a divide when [kids who didn’t do WOOLF] arrived on campus.”

However, because students are meeting so many people before the orientation programs begin, there has been an issue of first-years signing up for mid-orientation programs and then opting out of them once they arrive on campus.

The report on mid-orientation programs, conducted in 2002, reported that 10 percent of 377 respondents did not participate in any mid-orientation activities last year. Many first-years felt that, with four days of activity and four nights of partying before mid-orientation, they weren’t eager to leave campus or continue with structured activities. Maggie Miller ’07 said, “I wanted to stay on campus with friends and hang out, so I decided not to do WOOLF. And I’m glad I stayed.” Additionally, because the initial period on campus is such an exhausting whirlwind of attending parties and events and meeting people, many first-years found themselves less eager to spend four days on their feet with new people. “I didn’t want to go on WOOLF because I was tired from First Days and definitely didn’t want to hike,” Allycia Jones ’07 said. “Plus I’d already made friends. But I figured I’d have fun once it started, so I went.” Zach Yeskel ’04, co-coordinator of WOOLF, said “People may not be as excited for WOOLF now since it is not their first orientation to campus, but overall the system is better now.”