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Freshmen welcomed to campus during Frosh-O

Steve Kerins | Thursday, August 17, 2006

While the majority of activities planned for this weekend’s Freshman Orientation are similar to those of previous years, members of the Notre Dame community will notice a few key differences emphasized in this year’s programs.

Although the University has made no significant changes to the program, the orientation staffs in the residence halls have worked to tailor their activities to meet the needs of incoming students, said Peggy Hnatusko, associate director of student activities.

“Some halls may be considering planning activities that mirror popular culture from this summer,” Hnatusko said, referring to an activity modeled after the game show “America’s Got Talent.”

Junior Mar-issa Buck, a Cavanaugh Hall Frosh-O commissioner, said her orientation staff made some slight changes to last year’s schedule when making plans for the class of 2010.

“We’re trying to do a lot more in-dorm activities,” Buck said. “We changed one activity that had been with another dorm to just our dorm.”

Gender relations were of particular importance for Frosh-O planners. Some past Frosh-O events received attention from students and administrators after complaints about awkward single- and mixed-gender activities.

Fisher rector Father Robert Moss said although the hall has not planned any significant departures from the traditional Frosh-O structure, a component on gender relations is always included.

“There’s a regular [gender relations] program for all the halls to be involved in,” Moss said.

Gender Rela-tions Center (GRC) Director Heather Ra-koczy expects positive chan-ges in this year’s orientation program. A team of students under the direction of Hnatusko and the Student Activities Office has formed the Student Campus Orientation Committ-ee, now in its fourth year, to serve as consultants to the residence hall orientation staffs.

“They will give feedback and guidance to the Frosh-O staffs regarding opportunities for balanced programming,” Rakoczy said.

Problems have arisen in the past when that balance was missing and when the focus of the activities be-came meeting members of the opposite sex, she said.

“I think a worst-case scenario would be a first-year student who feels disconnected from the Notre Dame community following [Frosh-O],” Rakoczy said. “Rather, I think we should provide diverse opportunities to connect so that our new students might feel at home.”

The GRC has designed a program for this year’s orientation weekend called “College HAS Issues: Hookups, Alcohol and Sexual Assault.” It will be included in the mandatory orientation for all freshmen on Sunday, Rakoczy said.

Within some residence halls, certain activities have also been restructured to address gender relations criticism.

“We were asked to encourage mingling with the opposite sex, but not to have it be polarized,” Buck said. “We’ve tried to do activities that didn’t encourage … coupling, things that you could enjoy whether you’re male or female.”

But gender relations aren’t the only concern for orientation leaders.

Last spring, the Campus Life Council passed a resolution encouraging Frosh-O leaders to insert cautionary material about third-party Web sites in the booklets they distribute to incoming freshmen. But Hnatusko said there has been little talk among Frosh-O leaders and Student Activities about the issues regarding sites like Facebook.com and MySpace.com.

“There was no discussion [between the Student Activities Office and the Frosh-O Commissioners] on privacy issues relating to social networking sites,” Hnatusko said. “Although personal privacy and the public nature of such sites is very important to consider when placing any personal information on the Web.”