With the frustrated efforts of the infamous 2013 “dry orientation” not far in the rear view window, this fall, all eyes were on Provost Uvin’s reforms. Last semester, controversy abounded over the removal of Queer Queries, the insertion of poorly defined academic TEDx presentations and reports of new, required three-day trips. The issue that remained constantly at the center of the conversation was the status of varsity athletes or our “scholar-athletes.”
Although they’re required to attend lectures and heavily encouraged to attend ice cream socials and floor events, the teams are in the midst of their only week of pre-season. In the past, fall and winter athletes haven’t been able to share the bonds formed on CEOT or FOOT trips or to make connections on campus due to their social commitments after practice. While Camp Amherst is a time to adjust to Val, wander the socials and ditch squad meetings, athletes must instantly learn to juggle their heavy sport commitment as well as the rest of their new Amherst life. In past years, these policies have functioned as an early introduction for first years to the already-recognizable “student-athlete divide.”
This year, the man who distracted an entire campus with a Spotify playlist during the last night of finals implemented some truly remarkable changes to Orientation. In line with this year’s Orientation theme of “When you’re here, you’re home,” Uvin made sure everyone got the chance to sit at the proverbial table. The new policy stated that upperclassman athletes could not contact their first-year teammates at all. That change meant first-year only practice, mandatory trips on and off campus and almost no pre-gaming and parties hosted in athletic social suites.
These changes have had isolating effects on some incoming athletes. A team dynamic, both in and out of practice, is a major part of any student-athlete’s life as many spend more time with their teammates than with their professors. Not meeting the majority of the people that will influence their college career can be anxiety-inducing during the first week to say the least. This can be especially awkward since both upperclassmen and first-years recognize one another but were forbidden by administrative policy to sit together at Val.
In our opinion, however, the benefit granted by the required trips, the decreased danger of first-years learning to drink at the dank socials and athletes and non-athletes interacting more outweighs the awkwardness and lack of practice for varsity teams. The most noticeable effect of these policies for any non-athletes was the emptiness of the social quad late at night. Other orientations have seen the fire hazard that is hundreds of first-years crowding outside of Crossett, and ACEMS has had to suffer many a call for those entirely new to drinking culture. Without the social pressure or even the option to “go out,” common rooms were populated with Cards Against Humanity and late night conversations. Much like veterans of CEOT or FOOT, first-years have been able to get to know each other, creating more accountability for bystander interventions and alcohol safety. Ultimately, along with the Powerhouse, the new athletic policies have created both safer spaces and a more engaging and satisfying social environment for incoming first-years.