For all the emphasis that’s placed on a fun-filled, academic-free Orientation Week, Cornell students seemed to be doing a lot of theorizing and postulating this past week. The topic at hand? Why we weren’t having a fun-filled Orientation Week. From poor weather, to a “lame” freshman class, to an unfortunate alignment of the planets, explanations for Borientation Week ran the gamut.
I must preface my own theories with a small lesson on the major laws that govern college students’ theories. For one, our hypotheses are bound by the Law of Diminishing Awesomeness, which holds that the total amount of fun to be had shall decrease steadily each year.
Ask any senior to recount his own first night in Ithaca, now four years back: throngs of wide-eyed youngsters, he’ll tell you, helplessly traversing the impossibly congested College Avenue, sustained only by an unquenchable flow of beer. As we get older, it seems our nostalgia reinforces the myth of better days gone by.
A corollary to the Law of Diminishing Awesomeness is the Rule of Exaggeration. In simplest terms, this rule holds that college-age students will frequently resort to hyperbole in backing up their assertions. That’s why half of the student body was on stage with Snoop Dogg at Slope Day two years ago.
Finally, keep in mind the Axiom of Self-Aggrandizement. Students often theorize with the expressed purpose of bolstering their own image, so that the aforementioned throng of wide-eyed youngsters might, in the story, have actually been a devout group of followers, led to the Mecca of Collegetown by our very own narrator four years prior.
Having offered these half-baked maxims — and keeping in mind that I too fall victim to their pitfalls — I shall present three of the real reasons that Orientation Week has been particularly unexciting this year. When I say “real,” I mean it in the sense of Snapple’s “real” facts:
1. Tuchman’s Theory.
Expert-in-nothing and friend-of-this-columnist Andy Tuchman ’09 argues that tougher admissions standards this year culminated in a smarter freshman class, and, since smart people must by virtue be nerdy people, the first-year students spent their nights doing nerdy things, like going to the library, competing in academic decathlons or reading The Sun, instead of partaking in merrymaking.
Any truth to this conjecture? According to the Class of 2010 Profile, 85 percent of our newest 3,238 students were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class. Associate Provost Doris Davis even went so far as to call this group a “wonderful mix of bright young people.” I consulted my thesaurus, and “bright” has at times meant anything from “clever,” to “quick-witted,” and sometimes even “brainy.”
And those of you who picked up Monday’s Daily Sun will notice that we climbed the U.S. News & World Report rankings from #13 to #12, beating out Brown and Northwestern. One student quoted in the article suggested that Cornell’s total admissions rate, which dropped this year to 24.7 percent, was still too high, and “may have hurt the University’s position in the rankings.”
If the inverse relationship between admissions rates and boisterous behavior is to be believed, the future seems dismal at best. Just imagine how much fun we’d have if we were tied for #4 with CalTech and MIT. As our intellect expands, our awesomeness diminishes.
2. Aggressive Policing.
Nothing says “no party here tonight” like a police car parked outside. Despite low student attendance, this year’s Orientation Week was host to many of Ithaca’s Finest. When they weren’t actively breaking up scantly attended parties, the police could be found offering sound advice, such as this bit of wisdom passed on to a friend of mine: “If I were you, I would shut down this party.”
My friend claims to have responded that, “If I were you, I would [expletives deleted], but I don’t go around sharing my opinion with everyone.” I suspect this last statement might fall under the Axiom of Self-Aggrandizement.
A representative from the Ithaca Police noted that an additional 6-8 officers were on duty in Collegetown this week, and that “it’s essentially the same rules that apply for Senior Week, zero tolerance on noise” at parties. He said that this year’s police presence was no different than in the past.
Yet one student, slapped with a $400 fine for playing host to demeritorious debauchery, had this to say:
“The Ithaca Police force’s tactics during this year’s Orientation Week are nothing more than a gross abuse of authority and a fund raising mechanism reminiscent of the Gestapo-tactics used by brutal dictators.” Rule of Exaggeration?
3. Cornell’s Orientation Week
Lastly, Cornell has gone to great lengths to offer a viable alternative to the Collegetown carousal. Pep rallies, karaoke and hypnotists were just a few of the wholesome programs proffered by the University this year. Administrators’ disapproval of the Collegetown Orientation experience was alluded to in their letter to incoming freshmen on the new student orientation website:
“Your first challenge as a Cornellian will be to balance your freedom with your responsibility. Cornell University’s Orientation is 6 days and 6 nights … The rest of the time, you can decide what to do. Orientation is not the last time that you will be faced with choices to make; some will be easy and others may be more difficult.”
As our authority figures steer freshmen away, I wonder if the facts are lining up behind the wistful mythmakers in Collegetown. Upperclassmen’s disappointment might underscore a real trend, where freshmen are no longer oriented by their predecessors, and instead only acquainted with the University.
From my experience — and the experiences of many people I’ve spoken with — this trend is unfortunate. It’s not very often that upperclassmen open their doors to freshmen, and it’s not very often that our youngest students have the opportunity to interact with our oldest students in a non-controlled environment.
Had it not been for my time in Collegetown two years ago, I might not be where I am today: a legend in my own time, leader of many and close personal friend to Snoop Dogg.
Rob Fishman is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Agree to Disagree appears Wednesdays.