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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

After cancellation of Pre-Frosh Trips, college seeks alternative program

<rleton’s Pre-Freshman Orientation Trips have been a tradition at this school for many years. The school has organized canoeing, backpacking, and service trips for incoming freshmen to participate in for the four days prior to New Student Week. Before the school provided sponsorship, the trips were run and organized by students, who would find the names and addresses of incoming freshman and send out invitations, asking these frosh to go on canoeing trips with them before officially starting their first year at Carleton.

Pre-frosh trips have been praised for allowing incoming students to be introduced to the school in small, intimate settings. While New Student Week offers an introduction to the policies and organizations of Carleton, the trips provide more personal connections. Most trips are made up of five to seven freshmen and two leaders, usually one male and one female upperclassman. The leaders provide a great opportunity for first-year students to ask candid questions and learn more about Carleton. Then, upon returning to campus, the first-year students already personally know someone who is not a freshman.

However, in the last week, the announcement was made by the college that the Pre-Frosh Trips have been canceled. Facing considerable student outrage, Dean of First Year Students Joe Baggot has spent the past week presenting his rationale to organizations like the Carleton Student Association and the ACT center staff.

Due to a change in the dean positions, Baggot no longer follows a class through their four years at Carleton, but instead works with every class of first-years. He began his discussion with CSA by explaining that among his plans for the freshman class is a “reshaping and re-imaging of what we call pre-frosh trips.” Orientation, in Baggot’s eyes, is very important to the freshmen experience. He describes a successful orientation as providing “experience and information that leads freshmen to thrive.” While Pre-Frosh Trips do help meet the goals of orientation, Baggot believes that they do just the opposite for some students who do not participate.

“The common starting point is important,” he stressed, and asked the CSA to imagine themselves as an incoming freshman who did not attend a pre-frosh trip. As scary as coming to a new school full of strangers can be, it’s much scarier if a lot of the students—say, your roommate—already know each other. This past year, about a third of the incoming class participated in the trips.

Why did the students who felt left out not attend a trip? There are a number of reasons, Baggot explained, that students may be unable to come a week early before New Student Week. First of all, unlike New Student Week, Pre-Frosh Trips are not free. Additionally, the last week of summer is a time when students could be working and making money that they need, perhaps for their Carleton tuition, Baggot said. While he admits that the school could offer scholarships, Baggot added that this would immediately force the student to identify themselves by their financial need.

Additionally, the Pre-Frosh Trips also interfere with International Student Orientation.

For Carleton students, the question then becomes, can Carleton create mandatory, no-cost trips for all freshmen to participate in? It seems to be a monetary issue, which administration is exploring, but Baggot also adds that he does not want to assume mandatory trips are the solution that students want.

After making the initial decision seemingly without student input (Baggot defends himself with the claim that the decision came almost directly student input, albeit in an indirect way: first-year orientation evaluations and student complaints of the Pre-Frosh Trips), the next step is asking for just that. Baggot is currently in the brainstorming phase, and he has suggested an orientation which is much more than a week, because “we have the whole year to work with.” He has considered creating freshman trips which take place at different times throughout the year, and seems very open to student thoughts and advice.

The opposition to this initial decision, however, is fierce. A large part of this anger comes from the perception that administration made this decision completely without student input, to which Baggot has already offered his explanation.

Sam Benshoof ’09 was one of the student coordinators of the trips last year. He feels very strongly that the benefits of the Pre-Frosh Trips are something that will be eliminated as long as Baggot wants to eliminate: the “Pre” from the Pre-Frosh Trips because of the fact that the trips take place before New Student Week, which allows some students to get to know each other while isolating those not involved. However, Benshoof disagrees.

“By moving the trips to after New Student Week the college is consequently also eliminating the benefits that all Pre-Freshman outdoor orientation trips provide for the first-year students. Much research has been done on this, and it’s been shown time and time again that Pre-Frosh trips similar to ours help incoming students build supportive, community relationships with peers and upperclassmen, helps students gain a sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, and most important helps students ease their transition into Carleton,” Benshoof said.

Student opposition to this decision is strong and emotional, based on all of the experiences that Pre-Frosh Trips have provided for those students. “It’s sad to think that future Carleton students won’t have the great opportunity or the experience that I had as a freshman on a trip,” Benshoof said. However, the administration seems to be providing a very reasonable explanation which has the best interest of the whole freshman class in mind. Baggot continues to work with the CSA in order to receive student input.

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