New freshman: Just say no

Rene Castro

For incoming freshmen college means freedom, and summer orientation offers the first taste. It’s an exciting time. But, it’s also daunting, and many incoming students are misled. When the first night of orientation ends, more than a handful of students return to their Jester dormitories inebriated and not in a condition to attend the academics-focused programming the next day. If the university expects 70 percent of the incoming class to graduate in four years, the university needs to decide whether it wants to intervene in events aimed at incoming students that put their safety at risk and take focus away from what they are there to do.

Student organizations have a right to host parties and socials. New students have a right to do what they feel is in their best interest. The issue is that while orientation itself is mandatory, barely any of the events at orientation are and some students find other ways to occupy their free time. Coupled with the fact that orientation is now only two-and-a-half days long, many incoming students want to explore the social aspect of college rather than sit in an over-air conditioned auditorium. That reality renders all the supposed improvements to orientation moot.

For fraternities and sororities, summer recruitment is crucial. Without this time, these organizations wouldn’t be able to get enough initial interest in order to have a productive rush season. “What fraternities want in summer recruitment, and what the university wants in keeping the students in the orientation program throughout the week, I don’t know if there is [a balance]” says Gabriel Garcia-Cantu, president of Acacia, a fraternity on campus.

It’s a balance, however, that needs to be found. Just two weeks ago, a Ford Mustang was pulled over by police. According to Campus Watch, seven UT students were crammed into the car, none were wearing a seat belt. The driver’s eyes were “bloodshot and watery,” and his breath smelled of alcohol. All of the passengers were under 21, and all of them were identified as incoming freshman attending UT orientation. They were coming back from a party at the Phi Kappa Psi house.

If a student is charged with underage drinking, he or she must see the Dean of Students, Soncia Reagins-Lilly. From there, the dean mandates eight hours of a Drug and Alcohol class as well as 20 hours of community service. The student must speak to a judge, pay court costs and complete additional community service. Then, his or her driver’s license is suspended for 30 days. In the end, the offense lands on a criminal record.

It’s not a good way for one to start his or her college career. So with the obvious dangers and downfalls, why doesn’t the university limit the amount of exposure the incoming students have to student organizations that may not have their safety in mind?

The university should not prevent incoming students from exploring the different student organizations during orientation. It’s important for the students to begin networking and it’s important for the organizations to start recruitment. But the social events have become a problem. Student organizations including fraternities and sororities need to be aware of the consequences these incoming students face if caught in violation of the law.

If the university is firm about wanting students to graduate in four years, it should make more orientation events mandatory. In the end, those who come here with an expectation to party will find it regardless of what the university does. But if they are pushed in the right direction when they get here, the incentive to focus on academics might be enough to curb orientees’ interest in partying long enough to register for fall classes.

Castro is a theater and dance and journalism major from San Antonio.