The Daily Gamecock

Column: Shorter Welcome Week fails to prepare freshmen

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When I first came to the university just three short years ago, I had a full week of Welcome Week, as the name would imply. It gave me time to move in, make friends, wander around campus and learn how to feed myself. I loved having a few days of fun and activities in order to adjust to being a college student. I walked to all my classes, I ate at different dining halls, and I got to learn how to be a college student, away from my family and home.

Even better than organizing activities, the university offered me the ability to handle the whirlwind adjustment of settling into a new home without the stress and constraints of classes. Every year I have been here, Welcome Week has gotten shorter and shorter. This year’s freshmen had a single day between campus move-in and the first day of class. A Welcome Day.

On three separate occasions, I have been stopped in Russell by freshmen asking how to use a meal plan. There was apparently next to no instruction on how to use their CarolinaCards or what their meal plans were. Students don’t know how to feed themselves. I have talked to several who say that they were never connected to the UofSC listserv and aren’t getting the emails meant to engage us all in the Gamecock community. People don’t know where their classrooms are. Unless they rushed or showed up with the marching band, the freshmen here have only had a day to meet people before being flung into classes.

Compounding this problem, mental health issues are a well-known fact of college life; surveys estimate that “about one-third” of college students suffer from depression and “almost half” suffer from anxiety. It takes energy to be anxious, and when you are new to the school, unsure how to use your meal plan and unused to the geography of the campus, it’s easy to get exhausted and overwhelmed. This makes it hard to make new friends. It doesn't help that if someone stops you to talk, they’re either asking for directions or trying to get you to join their church.

I understand that to some degree, move-in day and the first day of classes were pushed into the same week because of the eclipse and the extra population increase Columbia experienced because of it. But if that was the main point, then why not move the first day of class to the following Monday? There has been some speculation that Welcome Week has been shortening over time because it gives students less time to get in trouble. Personally, I don’t think limiting free time is an effective method of control. Students are going to make all the same stupid mistakes, and they’ll do it during the school year when their grades can be more affected by it. Perfect.

This isn’t just affecting freshmen either. As I said above, I’ve had to teach three different new students how to use their meal plans. This means that there are hundreds of uneducated freshmen milling about in the dining halls, dazed and confused. Clueless freshmen are a detriment to us all, in both efficiency and in the general enjoyment of our lives. I don’t have the time or space to begin a discussion about the university’s self-destructive trend of continually accepting more freshmen that it can house, feed or educate — I’ll save it for another column — but we have all seen the damage being done.

The university is continuing to do a disservice to its students, both freshmen and otherwise, by refusing to prioritize students' well-being. A one-day Welcome Week is unacceptable if the university truly wants to accomplish what this adjustment period was intended to do, which is introduce and educate new students about their new home and making sure they feel welcome and comfortable here. This year, the time between move-in and classes was neither welcoming nor a week long. Eventually, they’ll have to change the name.


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