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The Carletonian

Overworked and overwhelmed? Students voice thoughts about New Student Week operations

photo by Lev Shuster

​​New Student Week (NSW) is a seminal six days for first-year Carleton students, who, after months of anticipating their arrival on campus, finally have the opportunity to forge friendships with fellow classmates, familiarize themselves with campus, participate in Carleton traditions and become acquainted with campus resources. 

An overlooked aspect of NSW, however, is the work that goes behind its production—work that can be demanding for some of the sophomores, juniors and seniors who serve as NSW Leaders. Meanwhile, concerns have been raised that over-packed schedules and the constant bombardment of new information throughout the week may contribute to an overwhelming experience for first-years. 

Student A, a NSW Leader who asked to remain anonymous, expressed that the demands of this year’s version of NSW led them to feel “really burnt out.”

“When I was applying for the position, they told me I would be getting paid for 40 hours a week,” said Student A. “Still, I didn’t know we would be working so much.” 

According to Student A, in addition to attending CarlTalks and leading various group activities, student workers were expected to help pick up trash and make equipment deliveries to different storage areas around campus.

“Normally I would be fine with that, but it went so late,” they explained. “Sometimes, we would be getting out at 11:30 p.m., and the next day we would have to get up at 8 a.m.” 

Student A also noted that this schedule left them little time to take care of themselves and prepare for their own upcoming course load.

“The reason I burnt out so quickly was not just the hours, but the emotional labor. Having to be excited and enthusiastic all the time, trying to keep people together and engaged — that was a lot that they [the Student Activities Office] were asking of us,” they added. 

However, not everyone felt overwhelmed by the structure of NSW. Quoc Nguyen ’23, a Peer Leader, said that he didn’t feel like he was overworked. 

“It was a lot of work,” he said, “but compared to [NSW during the] COVID-era, I didn’t think it was that bad at all.”

Schedules differed among NSW student-employees depending on their roles: Program Assistants were responsible for coordinating with faculty, general Group Leaders were in charge of managing new students, and Peer Leaders were in charge of representing specific campus offices. Nevertheless, an 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. work schedule, even if not consistent, far exceeded the 40-hour limit students were eligible to be compensated for during the six-day span of New Student Week.

Lee Clark, Director of Student Activities, confirmed that NSW student-employees  were compensated for “35 hours of training [which took place the week prior] and 40 hours during New Student Week.”

“[NSW Leaders] are not approved to receive overtime, nor is it an expectation. This is clearly identified on the position description and discussed in detail during their training,” he wrote in an email.

Clark also added that he was surprised to hear of concerns from NSW leaders, considering that the Students Activities Office received feedback that was “overwhelmingly positive” this year. He wrote that he was “not aware of any New Student Week leaders feeling ‘overworked’ or not receiving compensation for hours worked.”

Maya Rogers ’22 also worked as a Peer Leader during New Student Week. She noted that there was a day where she worked 12 hours and took 17,000 steps. Taking her disability into account, Rogers normally aims to walk 5,000 steps per day—a number slightly greater than the amount the average American takes.

Nevertheless, Rogers maintains that she was adequately compensated for all the work she did, expressing greater concerns for the way NSW  is structured and the overwhelming effect it has on first-year students. 

“My New Student Week experience was the most intense experience that I’ve ever had at Carleton,” said Rogers. “Thinking back, there’s just no time for resting and no ability to do so,” she added. “The amount of stuff being asked of people physically, for one thing, is just so much. To have this introduction [to Carleton] which is so severe of what is demanded of you, I think is really difficult.”

Rogers recalled experiencing burnout during NSW as  a first-year due to, in part, a negative stigma around missing NSW events such as group activities and CarlTalks.

 “As a disabled student, the fact that everyone else appears fine gives me the pressure that I need to be fine,” said Rogers. “I think it plays into this larger conversation of what is expected of students.”

In particular, Rogers is concerned about the impact of lengthy CarlTalks on students with learning and attention disabilities, such as ADHD. CarlTalks entail two-hour long lectures, where students are required to sit and listen, take a short break and then attend another two-hour-long lecture. Rogers also pointed out that many students, not just those with disabilities, may struggle to process and retain an extensive amount of new information in such a format. 

According to Samantha Thayer, Director of the Office of Accessibility Resources, it is uncommon for students with disabilities to make accommodation requests specific to NSW.

“Now and in the past, the most common accommodation we assist with for NSW or other events on campus is related to captioning for video or virtual programming. We have also made arrangements for students to check out mobility equipment in the event that a need arises,” she added.

Thayer also noted that future alterations to NSW that might improve conditions for disabled students would be made on a case-by-case basis depending “on the student’s unique situation, potential barriers and their role in New Student Week.”

To make NSW more accessible, Rogers suggested extending it beyond a week, making more events optional, and reducing or breaking up the length of CarlTalks as possible programming improvements.  

Myles Fisher ’25 acknowledged that, as a NSW participant, lengthy CarlTalks could feel like a burden and seemed “hard to make interesting.” At the same time, he also noted that the most important takeaway for him was the friends he made. 

“I do think that the biggest value I got out of New Student Week were the friends I made from the New Student Week groups. All of my current friends and acquaintances were either people in my group or people I met through my group, so, in that aspect, New Student Week was successful,” Fisher said. 

Liza Swanson ’25, another NSW participant, found the CarlTalks “informative and helpful” since they “helped create most of my foundational understanding of what the expectations are at Carleton.”

Reflecting on her overall experience, Swanson called NSW “a little overwhelming with all of the events and activities planned back-to-back.” 

“I definitely felt drained at the end of each day,” she said. “However, I rarely felt lonely because I was constantly surrounded by people, and it was a nice way to introduce me to the campus and the social atmosphere.”

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