Welcome Week’s intent should extend to the school year

The freshman boot camp is misguided

For the first time last week, the University subjected incoming freshmen to a scrupulous six days of activities to acclimate them to college. Activities ranged from meeting advisers, navigating the University, diversity sessions, to forays at the Mall of America. The intent of this college boot camp, officials said, was to engage students with the byzantine campus community early with the hope that more students will participate in extracurricular activities, thus boosting graduation and retention rates. Welcome Week accordingly seems to be directly confronting the perception that the University is unaccommodating to undergraduates. If so, it is a noble âÄî albeit perhaps not properly executed âÄî pursuit, but one that should not stop when school is actually in session. The most pressing concern about the wisdom behind a week of mandatory activities was whether the investment was enough to achieve its stated intent. The Star Tribune reported the University poured $1.5 million into Welcome Week all while other large universities were cutting back on similar programs âÄî a point that immediately raises a red flag. Moreover, the UniversityâÄôs argument that retention and graduation rates will rise if students are connected early is tepid because it assumes that the University convinces students that the connection will be worth it during one week. To be sure, Provost Tom Sullivan was correct when he told the Star Tribune that a mere introduction to campus activities might be enough for some students. But the University just as well could have covered Welcome WeekâÄôs message in a guidebook. That University officials think students need a rigorous introduction to programs and activities illustrates perhaps the University should instead put more money and effort into the programs and activities themselves instead of merely promoting them. Most freshman are savvy enough to pursue their interests if they werenâÄôt shoved down their throat during a week jammed with activities designed to mitigate the chances that students will get too drunk to participate in them. Welcome Week is nevertheless finished. Prepare for a much less accommodating reality.