Each year in late August, before UP students start classes, more than 800 freshmen arrive on The Bluff, most of them eager to begin a new stretch of life where they’ll enter adulthood. Instead, they’re welcomed to campus with events and activities that treat them like high schoolers.
Orientation certainly serves an important purpose for incoming freshman classes, and in many ways it succeeds. Home base groups connect freshman with each other and with older mentors to help them transition to college. The opening soccer game, which nearly all freshmen attend, provides an authentic, fun UP experience and places freshmen side-by-side with older students to build community.
But several of Orientation’s annual events feel more like a gathering of kids than an introduction to higher education.
Every year on Thursday evening of Orientation weekend, the incoming freshman class gathers in the Chiles Center for Playfair, an event more appropriate for the beginning of a middle school summer camp than the beginning of a college education. During Playfair, a person with no connection to UP stands on a stage, yelling into a microphone and facilitating icebreaker after uncomfortable icebreaker.
As students enter college, they look forward to more responsibility and greater maturity among their peers. Playfair, however, treats UP’s incoming freshmen like they’re too young to take on new challenges.
Furthermore, Playfair does little “to welcome [freshmen] into our community,” which the Office of Student Activities says is an important goal of Orientation. Playfair is organized and conducted by people outside of the UP community, and it tries to build relationships on forced interactions unrepresentative of the social climate on The Bluff.
During the Freshman Excursion, the entire freshman class is bussed to Vancouver, Wash. and let loose in Big Al’s, a bowling alley and arcade. Big Al’s has nothing to do with UP or the community on campus, and chances are none of the students will ever go back. Neither Playfair nor the Freshman Excursion accurately represents the experience freshmen have to look forward to on The Bluff.
Of course, community building is not the sole purpose of Orientation. Orientation’s organizers want incoming freshmen to have fun — and they certainly should. But playing get-to-know-you games in the Chiles Center and spending a night in a massive arcade don’t appeal to many 18-year-old university students.
As an alternative, Orientation could include a concert hosted in the Chiles Center. The outstanding turnout at Rock The Bluff the past two years proves that students want to attend concerts. Student Activities could also hold a dance for the incoming freshmen, either on campus or at a popular Portland venue like the Crystal Ballroom.
In order to make freshmen feel more comfortable than awkward, as well as more mature and college-ready, Student Activities should reconsider its choices in Orientation activities.
Class of 2017, welcome to The Bluff. Now that Orientation is over, you’ll be able see the true experience of being a Pilot. We promise, it’s nothing like Playfair.