July 15, 2004

University Plans Freshman Orientation

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For the roughly 3,500 freshmen and transfer students who will set foot on Cornell University’s campus for the first time in August, first things come first: a carnival, movies, and, of course, a sex talk.

According to Orientation Steering Committee co-chair Bryan Muldowney ’05, Orientation Week, the annual welcome for new students, is to be stronger than ever.

Zachary Wallace ’06, who serves on the 11-person OSC, described Orientation Week as “an opportunity to introduce students to the Cornell community” and allow them to transition to college life while having fun. And this year, with funds about double what they were last year, “it’s going to be bigger and better [than ever],” Wallace said.

Changes from previous years will be apparent from day one. On the evening of move-in day, Aug. 20, students will meet in small groups with their residence hall neighbors and one orientation leader, an upperclass volunteer who will act as their mentor during the transitional week.

The O.L. groups are designed to let new students ask questions about the week and coming years, but OSC member Kristoffer Kaminski ’05 said that in previous years, O.L.s and their groups were randomly composed of students from all seven undergraduate colleges in Cornell. This caused problems when O.L.s were asked questions they couldn’t answer about a college other than their own, but Kaminski explained that this year’s groups will consist of students all in the same college.

“[The O.L.s] are going to be able to answer questions better, because they’ve been in their shoes,” Kaminski said.

After these meetings, students will be led to First Night, a carnival event on North Campus, where all freshman dorms are located. Muldowney said that he hopes this night will set the mood for the rest of the week.

“First Night is the culminating factor to all our work,” he said. “If that is a huge success, the rest of the week is going to be a huge success, too.”

Muldowney said that he believes First Night is going to surpass past years. He explained that in the past, events on the first night were organized by individual residence halls, but these were not grand enough to keep students drawn in for the rest of the week.

With the OSC in charge this year, Muldowney said the event will be “on a much broader scale,” which he is confident will entice students to attend events all week.

Wallace explained that every night of Orientation Week will feature a different “Cornell After Dark” event, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Second Night, which is new this year, starts off with O.L.s leading the entire freshman class, accompanied by the Big Red Marching Band, to Bartels Hall on Central Campus. There, a hypnotist will perform along with local bands, a magician and other entertainment.

Other events during the week will include a movie night on Monday, Aug. 23. Six movies will be shown in various locations on campus, including Libe Slope, which connects Central Campus to West Campus, where the upperclass residence halls are.

Every evening of Orientation Week will also feature a talk at 7 p.m., collectively called the Series @ 7. On Sunday and Monday, this will be an interactive improv comedy dubbed “Sex Signals.” Wallace explained that students will be able to learn about sexual situations and act out scenarios so that they will be more comfortable should they come across similar situations later in college.

Other daytime and nighttime events will include free bowling, wall climbing, dance parties, a coffeehouse and various events targeted toward more specific audiences.

The week will culminate on Aug. 24 with Cornell Night, a night of a cappella, comedy and dance groups. Cornell Night, the last hurrah before classes start on Thursday, also kicks off Welcome Weekend, which started last year. Welcome Weekend, which focuses on the weekend after the first two days of classes, includes various musical performances, sports and a casino night, among other events. Muldowney said that it was developed to include not just new students, but the entire student body.

One of the OCS’s hopes is that the array of nighttime activities will help keep freshmen away from Collegetown, where upperclass students host parties as they move in and get ready to start a new semester. In the past, Muldowney said, the OSC has had difficulties with people leaving their programs to go to Collegetown. He stressed, however, that instead of deterring freshmen from going to Collegetown, the OSC has focused in on keeping them engaged on campus.

“What we try to create is an environment that’s comfortable for everybody and that’s safe, legal and fun,” Kaminksi said.

Wallace also pointed out that Orientation Week events are geared specifically toward new students. The range of activities will engage students in social, personal, academic and athletic aspects, and Wallace said that the OSC put a lot of effort in to make sure that events will appeal to everyone and help bring students together. He said that the hope is that students will be more drawn to that than going to parties where they don’t know anybody.

“These freshmen are going to go to Collegetown, and they won’t have anyone else there,” he said, adding that such situations can be both dangerous and unpleasant for freshmen who might not have been in such an environment before. “I really tried very hard to make sure everyone was going to meet everyone,” Muldowney said.

Although the OCS has a faculty advisor — Lisa K’Bedford ’96, assistant dean of students for new student programs — Muldowney said that the 11-person student committee enjoys a lot of freedom. He said that as long as it keeps within its budget constraints, which K’Bedford advises on, event programming “is decided more so by the committee than by our advisor.”

This year, the Student Assembly, which allocates funds for all student-run groups on campus, increased the OCS’s funding to about twice what it was previously. Muldowney said that the extra money will allow the OCS to set up an Orientation Week that reaches its full potential.

“With the increased budget from S.A., we’re really excited to show what we can do,” Muldowney said. “This is the first year we were provided the money to do what we know we can do.”

Archived article by Yuval Shavit
Sun Staff Writer