Reflections on O-Week

Common sense seems to indicate that there isn’t a tremendous link between the enthusiastic group “orientation” students participate in during their first week at Laurier and the subsequent four years of their university experience.

Despite the best intentions of those involved in this yearly ritual to inject a dose of academia into the week leading up to what is meant to be several years of education, those intentions will again have been drowned out by cheering.

Sure, there are vague “learning objectives” attached to O-Week, but are students really aided by being generally reduced to kindergarteners rather than the adult selves they will be forced to look for in themselves as they progress toward a degree?

Will you put that you were a “Green Amazon” on your résumé when you eventually enter the workforce? Will you draw from all the lessons you learned from “Uh Oh” and the regatta games when you’re staying up all night writing papers or pouring over textbooks before exams in third year? Will this week have done much more for you other than give you an opportunity to meet people? No.

O-Week is a great tool for meeting people, a necessary activity as one enters university. It seems however that more often than not, whatever acquaintances or bonds result from the week are based on the consensus that a lot of what is going on is ridiculous.

This is not to say that the overall intentions of O-Week are flawed, nor can I come up with a much better solution to the problem of several thousand fresh university students arriving on campus, grappling with what comes next, all at once.

The issue with O-Week is its theatrical quality. The bright colours and yelling meant to make first-years comfortable in a new environment seem to obscure what students are supposed to be here for in the first place: learning and subsequently a piece of paper proving such. That is ultimately why people come to university, right?

The other point stressed by O-Week organizers is that this week is understandably meant to act as a transition between high school and university. It makes sense that students arrive with an incomplete picture of all that university will entail and as a result, O-Week should focus on preparing students for what’s to come.

However, instead of exemplifying student life, O-Week as it stands focuses almost exclusively on transition of a social nature. This leaves the academic transition almost entirely up to the sometimes sparsely-attended first-year lectures and for frustrated profs to remedy in the weeks to come.

Even the social nature of O-Week isn’t entirely realistic. Students meet under outrageous circumstances unrepresentative of the rest of the time they’ll spend together at Laurier. Be forewarned that you’ll get to know your peers far better (for better and worse) when they’re not wearing matching t-shirts and being led between activities in groups as though their parents dumped them in a summer camp.

Applying academic elements to the week is an important step forward made in recent years by those who organize orientation. This idea should be taken a little further. Retain some of the team-building elements that keep anxiety in check and focus more on what’s to come for students while toning down the insanity of it all.

Bringing in guest lecturers or having more involvement from faculty beyond the existing academic sessions would be a start. The Radical O-Week started in recent years by LSPIRG has started to take orientation in this direction. The genesis for this was no doubt that not everyone responds to what can come to be the overwhelming antics involved with the existing O-Week.

What ultimately needs to be made clear to students is that this week of activities should be taken with a grain of salt. There are far more valuable things to come over the course of the next few years than reminiscing fondly or not about one’s first week here.