When my parents left my dorm room for their teary trip back to Philadelphia last August, I had my first encounter with Camp Williams or, its more official name, first-year orientation. For the next few days, I trooped around campus with my entry attending yawn-filled, yet informative lectures in Chapin Hall as well as laughing along at the sex-signals show. All freshmen at Williams are gently eased into the college way of life while concomitantly being put in many situations where they are more or less forced to meet their fellow Ephs. First Days at Williams is truly a gloriously successful program and is culminated, for some, with a four-day backpacking trip on the tranquil, if not sometimes grueling, Appalachian trail. By the time the new first-years return to campus, one that is suddenly populated with hordes of new, slightly older faces, Williams already feels like home.
It is beyond debate that freshman orientation should be obligatory at any school, for everything from living away from home to dealing with 150 pages of reading a night are in most cases completely new and foreign concepts to first-year students. But is SophomOrientation, the new orientation program for sophomores that the College began this fall, necessary? Really, what ropes do we sophomores need to be shown? What information are we going to be told that either we hadn’t already heard freshman year, or that won’t be repeated ad nauseum this year? SophomOrientation came across to me as a colossal waste of money and a refuge for those who want to fool themselves into thinking that they are still first-years and need the safety net and structure that intrinsically comes with freshman year.
I left the talks about studying abroad and becoming a JA with little new knowledge and an impression that I would have the opportunity to hear the same talks, in greater depth, in the future. Furthermore, the majority of the talks were poorly attended. Most of the information being thrown at us was information that anyone who has gone to Williams for one year would already know. The material was presented as if we were first-years again who needed another introduction to college life. It seems like most sophomores (including myself somewhat) treated orientation part two as just a legitimate excuse to have their parents send them up to school earlier than usual.
Forced interactions with other sophomores played a big part in SophomOrientation, especially in the barbeque, where tables were set up according to neighborhood in an attempt to facilitate students meeting new people within their neighborhood. However, a move like this only perpetuates the freshmen-safety-net dilemma because, as a sophomore, you shouldn’t be forced to meet your classmates as if you don’t know them yet. After a year at Williams, sophomores shouldn’t have to be seated around a table and introduce themselves to their neighbors like it’s their first day in the entry. It’s as if freshman year never happened and the only way to meet other students is when the College organizes an event for it to happen, and only through the College can we make friends.
The school spent over $15,000 on this two-day event, and during a year rife with economic setbacks and budget cuts, it seems slightly excessive to have spent so much money. Not only were thousands of dollars spent, so much of the food was thrown out for sophomores who ultimately didn’t attend the events.
It is obviously much easier to criticize a program than it is to create one. Regardless of SophomOrientation’s gaping holes those responsible for it deserve much praise for trying something new, and it should definitely be considered a work in progress. Moreover, it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge the positive aspects of SophomOrientation, for they certainly did exist. Most sophomores have a much better idea of what they want to major in than they did at the beginning of their first year, so having the opportunity to meet with professors at the academic exposition was extremely helpful. The Glow-in-the-Dark dance was a blast for all who attended (granted there were more first-years than sophomores there) and represented what parties at Williams should be like. I’m also a big fan of the metal water bottles that the College gave to each sophomore.
Orientation, however, should be reserved for those who are entering a completely new system and who know no one, and those people are firs-years. SophomOrientation ultimately did little to prepare us for junior year, and even had the program been better executed, it still would have been futile. For, as second-year students, we do not need to be spoon-fed information and guided through the challenges of college life all over again. It is time for all of us to finally graduate from freshman year.
Raphael Menko ’12 is from Narberth, Pennsylvania. He lives in Wood.