Plan II’s promised community fails this year’s freshman class

Julia Zaksek

The professors aren’t that great. There are no socials or parties. Pick a different program. Go to another school. It’s lonely. It’s cliquey. The community isn’t real.

Every year, the Plan II honors program holds a freshman forum to discuss classes and students’ first year in Plan II. The advisers asked us to type one thing we would’ve told ourselves as high school seniors before joining UT’s program. As anonymous answers appeared on the board, Plan II students expressed disappointment with what they believed was a lack of social community. 

Plan II program directors need to take an active role in creating and facilitating events that foster the community students were promised. 

Many first-year students can feel overwhelmed entering a university as large as UT. Plan II’s promise of a tight-knit, small group of students that hold frequent socials, have unique student organizations and go on engaging retreats draws students to the program. 

However, according to this year’s freshman forum, many Plan II students felt the community failed to provide the small college feel it promised.

“I went to a really small high school, a graduating class of 16, so I was a little intimidated by UT as a whole,” said Nathan Fredericks, a Plan II and biology freshman. “I saw Plan II as a potential familiar face in the vast expanse of UT.”

Fredericks said while he was initially optimistic about the social life the program offered in the first few weeks of classes, he didn’t find what he expected. Beyond a few friendships formed at the one lackluster social Plan II held, he felt somewhat distanced from the program as a whole. 

Plan II promises what would be difficult for many first-year students not to want — a home on campus. 

First-year college students report high rates of depression and feelings of loneliness due to separation from friends and family, as well as challenges forming new social circles. 

Forming friendships and a community is key, and programs shouldn’t advertise an opportunity to form these vital connections if they do not adequately follow through. The Plan II class of 2022 has over 200 students, the largest class ever. Now more than ever, Plan II needs to increase its efforts to build community.

While one of Plan II’s other claimed benefits is an academically diverse group of students, that variety — in major and background — is alienating without a connected community. 

“Instead of being that complete community experience like a (small knit family), it feels more like a huge, extended family,” Fredericks said. “There’s a lot of people that you just kind of know, that you don’t really interact with.” 

Plan II directors need to foster the community they promised students. The program should hold the socials and retreats they advertised and encourage involvement in Plan II organizations and activities. Students deserve opportunities to create the small college experience they were promised. 

Plan II director Alexandra Wettlaufer declined to comment on this column. 

Zaksek is a Plan II and women’s and gender studies freshman from Allen.