Off Limits

Back-to-School Special

During my long, murky and still uncompleted career as a University of Colorado student, I worked and quit (i.e., my supervisor told me to quit before I was fired) many jobs on campus. The most memorable? Orientation leader.

The two-day orientation program run by CU's Office of Orientation is designed as the new student's introduction to both academic and social life at the school. Before the fall semester starts, over 6,000 freshmen, transfers and their parents arrive a few days early so that student orientation leaders can drag them through the maze that is the Boulder campus. If they don't pass out from altitude sickness, they also get to register for classes, learn the 5,000 rules of the residence halls, take a tour of CU's own Playboy mansion -- Norlin Library -- and ask questions. Lots of questions.

Last summer, after a group of freshmen asked me whether they could start an intramural sports team through the rec center (the answer was yes), they informed me that it was an all-nude midget volleyball team. For the record, none of them were midgets. During my first stint as an orientation leader, a freshman asked me if putting Saran wrap on his penis was a suitable alternative to a condom. He also wanted to know if having a mirror above his bunk bed in his dorm room would scare off "the ladies."

Sex is a hot topic this year, too. "A lot of them ask what to do if they want to masturbate or have sex in their room and they have a roommate," says current leader Marissa Deal. Colleague Chris Barnes says she tells them, "You go into the shower." Chris Carlson suggests this answer: "You wait until they go to bed."

"The most common question we get is about classes," notes Erin Arnold, interim director of orientation and a former leader herself. "They are worried about getting the classes they need, or taking classes that are big lectures. Honestly, a lot of freshmen do end up in the big lecture-hall classes. We also get a lot of questions about how they'll fit in."

They also want to know what they can fit into their residence-hall rooms. Leaders get questions about maid service, door-to-door trash pickup and other little necessities of trust-fund life. "Some kid asked me if we had wake-up calls," Carlson reports. "He says 'Are there wake-up calls?' I said, 'What do you think?' He says, 'Yeah.' I'm like, 'Is this a hotel?' He goes, ';No, it's college.' I told him to buy an alarm clock."

Fielding students' questions is relatively easy compared to dealing with parents. "I had a parent call me on a Monday after attending an orientation session the previous week," Arnold remembers. "They didn't like the classes their student got, so they went home that night, before the registration system was locked, and took him out of all his classes -- but the classes they wanted were full. They erased his whole schedule. They tried to fix it and screwed it all up."

Another mother just didn't understand the concept of letting go. "I had a parent call who was coming to the last orientation session," Deal says. "I was telling her about what would go on during the session. Then she says, 'Okay, we're going to move into the residence hall, and then what do I do?' I said, 'Well, once you get them moved in, I guess you leave.' Then she says, 'I just leave?' I told her that she could live in Boulder -- it's a nice place. She starts bawling, 'Oh, my God, I just have to leave? I have to leave him?' I said, 'I'm sorry, but once you move them in, that's kind of the end.'"

Although this year's orientation program officially ended last week, the job of the Office of Orientation is just beginning. Last fall, it became home to Ralphie's Resource Center, which dispenses answers throughout the school year to such burning questions as "Can students receive flowers for birthdays?" and "I was wondering if I could get straight A's if one of my roommates dies."

Despite all of CU's bad press over the last year, orientation leaders didn't get many questions about the controversy. "We really have not had a lot of people asking us about the football scandal," says Arnold. "They already have an answer set up," reports Norton. "Students say, 'Oh, well, that's just the media' or 'It happens.' They don't want to know our opinion on it."

Welcome, Class of 2008. Keep the Saran Wrap handy. -- Crystal Preston Watson

What's So Funny?

By Adam Cayton-Holland

Here at What's So Funny, back to school invariably means back to cool. That's just a given. Our staff shops all summer long for the sickest fall outfits, rushing between Urban Outfitters in the Cherry Creek and Park Meadows malls, frantically shrieking, "Dress me, you corporate hipsters! Sell me this year's bohemian lifestyle!" We scour fashion catalogues and study trendy bands to figure out if long, disheveled hair is still in, or if we should go for the more sleek, man-boy cut. If there's some new video game the kids are playing, we've beaten it. If there's some clique member drifting toward the fringe, we're the first to ridicule him. We'll turn on that loser like Fredo on the Corleones. Because being cool when returning to school is crucial, and we understand that.

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