Editorial: Administration fails U of C 101

It’s September again and it’s time for another mass of fresh faces to be indoctrinated into university culture by the University of Calgary’s introductory sessions, U of C 101. The informal classes led by student volunteers provide frosh with their first opportunity to become acquainted with the campus and community that will absorb the next four or more years of their lives. In the past, the sessions have been split into mandatory sessions teaching students about the various amenities the university provides and a variety of optional sessions teaching frosh about campus groups, clubs and culture. This year the incoming students have been split into two groups, the number of 101 days has been cut from three to two and the number of overall sessions decreased with the previously optional sessions left out of the shuffle. For a university looking to put a greater focus on community, this doesn’t make sense.

In the past, the Gauntlet and the two other campus media groups–campus radio station CJSW and campus television NUTV–shared multiple sessions on each of the days with up to an hour to present what we do on campus. This year, the university instead offered for us to teach four sessions where we’d have the first five minutes to talk about our organizations and then be required to spend the rest of the hour talking about a university-assigned topic such as information technology. This was apparently the same deal offered to other campus groups, like the Students’ Union and prominent campus organizations.

The changes were ostensibly to cut down on a lack of participation in what the university deems the most important sessions. Since the mandatory sessions aren’t really mandatory at all, if frosh care more about going for their first drink at the Den than learning about the library, there’s not much the U of C can do about it. In the end, they’re hitting the same audience of keeners who would’ve been going to all the sessions anyway.

It’s sad that administration believes it can better help students by cutting out introductions to the same wider community they have been trying to foster. Participation in activities outside of going to class may not be essential, but it provides for a much more enriching experience and creates better graduates. Employers aren’t going to know how many classes you went to or how high your GPA was, but they’ll know if you were president of the Muslim Student’s Association or secretary in the Society of Undergraduates in Economics, or features editor at the Gauntlet for that matter.

The optional sessions provided students with options they could choose from and attend because they were actually interested. No one who showed up to the TriMedia or the EcoClub sessions was forced to go; they had a genuine interest in those groups and the opportunities they provide.

The system proposed this year by the university, though giving various community members a chance to speak to a potentially larger audience of 150 students, was flawed. The chances of a dozen students becoming involved on campus with a group they chose to go to a session about is several orders greater than that of 150 students in a session they were forced to attend, taught by someone they likely care little about.

In the end, isn’t involvement the goal? Though it’s hard to force anybody to become involved in a campus they feel has nothing for them but a $20,000 degree, offering them the choice to learn about the different segments of the community from people highly involved in those segments makes more sense than a five-minute flyby and would certainly have elicited more involvement than some of the new 101 features, like the kooky “higher-learning pledge.”

The most frustrating element of this year’s 101 session was the lack of consultation. The university approached the TriMedia groups and told us how we were going to participate, and poorly at that. TriMedia didn’t know how U of C 101 was going to work until a month beforehand, despite repeated attempts to get the story straight. When TriMedia wrote to the Office of the Student Experience stating in writing that the new system is flawed, administration responded too late for any changes to the U of C 101 program to be discussed.

Involvement on campus may delay your graduation and extend your stay here to five or six years (or more in the case of some Gauntlet editors), but ask anyone who is involved and they’ll tell you it’s well worth it. Removing the chance for the campus community to talk about itself at U of C 101 means now, more than ever, it’s up to individual students to become involved. The university experience is not exclusive to academics. The neglect of the U of C administration continues to foster on the non-academic side of this program minimizes the effect campus community involvement can have on any individual’s degree. Hopefully individual students decide for themselves that campus involvement outside of their class schedule is worth it, since 101 officials seem to be telling them it isn’t.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.