University suspends Freshperson Conference

Yale’s oldest pre-orientation program is going on hiatus.

The University Chaplain’s Office informed Freshperson Conference coordinators about a week ago that the program will be suspended for a year while administrators review it. The current FPC site (Connecticut’s Camp Awosting) is inadequate for the program’s needs, University Chaplain Sharon Kugler said, adding that she hopes to have a more developed training program for student leaders. But students who attended FPC said they think canceling the program, even for a year, would be detrimental to the class of 2014.

“We hope to offer an experience which draws on the best of what was and includes some new components that complement the original intent of the program,” Kugler said in an e-mail to the News. “All of this takes considerable time, and to do it right, we need to take a year hiatus.”

Elle Ramel ’11, who said she liked FPC because it was inclusive and “carefree,” said she thinks canceling FPC for one year would hurt the program and deprive incoming freshmen of the experience, which is marketed on the FPC Web site as “a summer camp for big kids.” Run by the Yale Chaplain’s Office, the program includes performances by student groups, panels on Yale life led by upperclassmen, and various camp activities.

Ramel helped to start a Facebook group called “Yalies for FPC 2010” and sent out e-mails Thursday and Sunday urging students who attended FPC to send in testimonials and sign a petition to support the program.

“There has been a huge outpouring of support,” Ramel said. “We already have 25 to 30 testimonials, and I’ve even had alumni contact me about their memories of FPC.”

In an e-mail to former FPC attendees, Ramel said she and other leaders had met with administrators, but that further discussions seemed unlikely.

Ramel said while she agrees that FPC may need to undergo structural changes, such as finding a new location, she thinks these changes could be made without canceling the program for a year. Ramel declined to provide other examples of possible changes.

Ten of 12 FPC participants interviewed said they enjoyed the program and do not think administrators should cancel FPC for a year.

Michael Solotke ’13 said he learned a lot about Yale and made some of his closest friends at FPC. Incoming freshmen will miss out on a good transition into college life, he said.

FPC is particularly well-suited for freshmen who are not “outdoorsy” or do not want to move into dorms early, Lindsey Williams ’11 added.

“I came into Yale with an instant, diverse group of friends,” Williams said. “And I felt more confident and knowledgeable about residential college life, deans and masters, fro-cos, shopping period, extracurriculars, the Mory’s cup song, the fight song and, of course, Camp Yale.”

But two students interviewed said they were not upset at the decision because they did not enjoy their FPC experiences.

Celina Kirchner ’10 said she supports the restructuring of the program because she thinks FPC should have more diverse leaders and activities.

“When I went on FPC, it made me feel very nervous about the party scene at Yale,” Kirchner said. “I don’t think they need to take a whole year, but if they think they do, I wouldn’t fight to keep it.”

Lake McManus ’12 said he does not think FPC offers many opportunities to get to know incoming freshmen, adding that he found the activities they did have, such as square dancing, to be awkward.

Will O’Shaughnessy ’11 — co-coordinator of FOOT, a pre-orientation program that takes incoming freshmen on a backpacking trip — said he expects the cancelation of FPC to increase the number of applications to FOOT. Still, he said, FOOT will not turn applicants away and may increase the number of trips offered if necessary.

FPC coordinators will meet with administrators Feb. 5 to discuss the restructuring of the program.

Comments

  • Yalie ’11

    “…but that further discussions seemed unlikely.”

    “FPC coordinators will meet with administrators Feb. 5 to discuss the restructuring of the program.”

    Did an editor actually read this article before it was published?

    Reporting both positive and negative student reactions is proper journalism, but the article’s structure manages to obscure the fact that 85% of the people interviewed had positive opinions of FPC and want to keep it going.

    Does it really take 18 months to find a new venue?

  • D Seifert ’09

    I attended FPC as a podling and was a podleader for three years, so I admit to a bias in favor of the program.

    200 freshmen—almost 1/7 of the matriculating class—choose to do FPC every year. At least 50 of those submit applications to become podleaders every year. FPC is fundamentally a student-run organization serving incoming students—if students like FPC, it seems absurd that the Chaplain’s should be able to effectively end a popular program simply because it controls the funding.

    The mission of FPC, in my opinion, is to introduce students to the realities of student life at Yale, especially at the beginning of their freshman year, and it succeeds. Yes, we do talk about the party scene, drinking at Yale, and even sex, but let’s face it— that’s exactly that most freshmen might encounter during Camp Yale, and it’s better to be prepared for it.

    We give practical advice on how to navigate Camp Yale safely, and we follow that panel with one about the other, less frat-tastic party options in the first two weeks. We also provide advice about everything else—majors, shopping period, sports, theater—and freshmen can talk to upperclassmen one-on-one about their actual experiences. The podleaders don’t hold anything back, and while that might not go over well with everyone, according to this article, 10 in 12 think we do a good job.

    For most freshmen, it’s much easier to meet new classmates after spending the previous three days meeting 200 of them. FPC can be silly, but only because that low-pressure atmosphere makes freshmen comfortable enough to relax, to be themselves, and to make friends in the absence of a social hierarchy. Podlings walk into school much more confident about fitting into Yale’s social scene.

    FPC is also the only non-thematic pre-orientation program. For those who aren’t avid hikers (or don’t want to forsake a shower for four days) and those who aren’t interested in doing Cultural Connections, FPC is the only chance to meet fellow freshmen before school starts.

    Finally, canceling FPC for one year has a lasting effect beyond next fall. FPC is run by the podleaders, who are almost always former attendees—canceling the program in 2010 would mean that the Class of 2014 wouldn’t have any; few ’14ers are likely to apply if they didn’t attend FPC themselves. That means there will be 1/3 fewer podleaders in 2011, 2012, and 2013; each year, respectively, there would be few if any sophomores, juniors, seniors. That limits the number and diversity of the podleaders, which means fewer attendees and fewer opportunities to become friends with upperclassmen.

    the Chaplain’s Office thinks the main issue is the suitability of Camp Awosting, I’m sure they could find another appropriate venue without having to cancel FPC. If this is a budgetary decision, the University should allow FPC to become a student organization and provide the marginal funding necessary to sustain FPC.

  • Y’11

    Why do hey have to cancel it for a whole year? Yeah, maybe some changes could be made, but how long would it take to find a new location? They’ll lose a lot of continuity this way.

  • Former FPC attendee

    This decision proves just how out-of-touch the Yale administration can be with the realities of student life. FPC is a widely beloved program that is perhaps the best preparation for beginning freshmen year. Unlike the others, it is inclusive, attracting a truly diverse range of students. Sure, the international students get to know each other well at OAS — and same for students of color at Cultural Connections — but those programs tend to section these groups off from the rest of Yale, creating race- and nationality-based cliques that persist throughout Yale. IF anything, FPC should be expanded, as it is the only way for students of all different nationalities, races, and interests to meet and intermingle in a stress-free atmosphere before the grind of Yale begins.

    D Seifert (above) has it right. FPC is not only fun and an amazing place to meet a wide range of new friends, but also the perfect introduction to just “being a Yale student,” offered by Yale students themselves. The panels, while perhaps “controversial” because they discuss sex, alcohol, etc, are probably the most important thing that any pre-orientation program could offer incoming freshmen. It is important for these kids to be aware of the realities of student life ahead of time, rather than being hit with them in the face.

    The Yale administration is crazy for canceling FPC, if only for a year, because the traditions will be diluted and perhaps lost. If the Chaplin’s Office is having budgetary issues, FPC should be able to find a new sponsor. This is a disgraceful decision by the Yale administration, revealing just how out of touch they often are. I hope they come to their senses.

  • Anonymous

    Something not discussed is the lack of preparation that “pod leaders” receive before they are put in charge of 200 freshmen. From friends that are pod leaders, they attend about an afternoon’s worth of training before the freshman arrive. In contradiction, Harvest and FOOT leaders undergo roughly 2 weeks of training annually.
    So some of the structural changes may be much larger than the mere location of FPC.

  • FOOT

    Everyone should do FOOT.

    FPC, OAS, and Cultural Connections are all weaksauce.

  • fpc 06

    don’t fool yourselves – no senior I know (including myself) still has close friends that they met at fpc. it’s probably not true that the program needs a year off to find a new location, but it’s definitely true that this preorientation needs to be reevaluated.

  • @ Kirchner

    Really, a disparaging comment about FPC regarding the party scene at Yale from someone who frequents it?

    Derp.

  • @ fpc 06

    I know a lot of people who are still friends with people they met at fpc. It simply stops being the primary connection people share after the first semester, when they have other means of meeting people.

    FPC isn’t about making yourself a crew of best friends– it’s about getting to know some people in your class before school starts and hearing about life at Yale from people who’ve been living it.

  • ES ’11

    Okay, really…while the administration’s decision to cancel FPC is a little reactionary, we all know that it basically exists as a way for prefrosh and pod leaders to get smashed together. You can’t blame Yale and the Chaplain’s Office for wanting their pre-orientation program to NOT be soaked in an alcohol haze.

  • ha

    right since camp yale is so sober.

  • yale 10

    yeah, i disliked fpc too. it was just awkward and i met maybe three people that i talked to even a few months later.

  • Yale ’91

    Are Yalies still saying “freshperson”? Really? Hee hee.