August 23, 2012

O-Week Activities Met With Mixed Reactions

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One of the largest college orientation programs in the nation welcomed more than 3,500 freshmen and transfer students this year, bringing with it a number of changes to ease new students’ transitions to Cornell.

More than 700 volunteers worked to run Orientation Week this year, according to Michael Sugihara ’13, chair of the Orientation Steering Committee.

“In terms of the size and scope of what we do here, it is really unique,” Sugihara said. “It’s unadulterated opportunity to experience what Cornell has to offer.”

Sugihara touted some of the new activities offered during this year’s Orientation Week, including a silent disco at which more than 1,000 people danced on the Arts Quad to music playing through individual wireless headphones — producing a strange scene of students jumping and singing in the silence of night.

Not all students were impressed by University-sponsored activities during Orientation Week.

“Some things were a little boring,” Jennifer Zhang ’16 said, adding that a few of the events were unorganized and started late.

OSC sought ways to provide entertainment to new students without alcohol, according to OSC member Jason Button ’14.

“It is important for freshmen to meet each other and have a safe experience,” Button said. “They can have that fun experience without being pressured to drink.”

But some students said they did not quite find that “fun experience” during Orientation Week.

David Rubin ’16 said the events offered at Orientation Week did not interest him enough to even attend.

“I honestly only really attended like half of one,” Rubin said. “Most of the events are at night … I mostly went to Collegetown.”

Despite some students’ lack of enthusiasm, OSC worked to provide a variety of activities for new students.

Among these activities were events specifically tailored toward transfer students, said Amanda Brown ’13, a member of the OSC who said Orientation Week became more tailored to transfer students this year.

“One of the events that we have changed is Transfer First Night,” Brown said. “This year we changed it to a ‘Taste of Ithaca’ thing,” which featured a showcase of Ithaca restaurants and businesses.

Transfer student Jessica Iyer ’15 said she appreciated the OSC’s attention to new students who are not freshmen.

“[OSC is] catering to transfers and have separate events for transfers in their colleges,” Iyer said. “It [got] me excited for classes.”

According to Zoe Luscher ’13, a member of the steering committee who was previously an Orientation Leader and Supervisor, many volunteers return to work again each year.

“I loved working with freshmen. And then going on to be a supervisor was exciting because I got to teach orientation leaders how to interact with new students,” she said.

Sugihara said many Orientation Week volunteers, who are not compensated for their work, participate for the mentoring experience of working with new students.

“We had students who stayed until 2:30 a.m. helping to take down materials and clean up,” he said. “Seeing people serve in that way is really incredible.”

He said he enjoys interacting with freshmen.

“The conversations with the new students are why we do what we do,” Sugihara said.

Jake Fagliarone ’16 said he was impressed by the OSC from the first encounter he had with move-in volunteers.

“They carried in all of our stuff,” he said.

Still, he lamented what he said was an excess of forced socialization involved in activities.

“They want us to interact with people and it is always weird,” he said.

Victoria Kuhn ’16 agreed, saying that some of the activities felt awkward.

“The first night was a little weird,” Kuhn said, adding that she did not feel the activity helped her meet other students.

But Kuhn said ultimately, she was able to meet a number of fellow new students over the course of the week.

“Relationships are built each day,” she said.

Original Author: Erica Augenstein