Campus adjusts to jam-packed NSW

Wailin Wong The Daily Northwestern

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Eli Margulies has barely stopped to breathe since she’s been on campus.

A typical day for this Music freshman begins at 7:30 a.m., when she wakes up to get ready for an 8:30 meeting. Between standing in line for her WildCARD, attending Responsibilities sessions, meeting with her faculty adviser and touring the music library, she hasn’t had much time to browse the course catalog or practice for her upcoming barrage of auditions.

“I’m feeling very stressed out,” Margulies said.

And it’s only New Student Week.

Because New Student Week was shortened this year, activities that previously were scheduled during a 10-day period are now compressed into five days. The change came in response to students who said they were getting worn out before classes even started, said New Student Week coordinator Kelly Carter. In the past, organizers also had to work around the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah and a home football game — events that did not fall during the week this year.

Next year, however, New Student Week will be longer because it falls during holidays and home football games again, although Carter said she isn’t sure how long it will be. Because the majority of NU students come from out of state, it is not possible for the university to hold its orientation during the summer, Carter added.

To fit in this year’s required orientation sessions, social events, peer and faculty advising meetings and other activities, organizers had to squeeze more events into each day. Other events, such as movie nights, were cut. But popular shows such as “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” and hypnotist Tom DeLuca were kept.

“We gave priority to activities that people could meet people at,” Carter said.

On the academic side, administrators shuffled their activities as well. Dean’s Convocations for each of the schools and advising sessions were held during the weekend. To lighten the schedule, students were able to take some placement tests online, cutting down on grading time and allowing them to know their results when they arrived, said Stephen Fisher, associate provost for undergraduate education.

Carter is careful to point out that welcoming activities — including a Latin Dance Party, Quiz Bowl and Capture the Flag — will continue for two weeks after classes start. And freshmen may still enjoy other New Student Week mainstays such as Community Action Day, Cultural Cuisine Night and Chicago-area trips Sept. 23 and 24.

“We’d really like to get people out of the mind-set that New Student Week ends when classes start,” Carter said.

But even with all the changes in scheduling to make freshman lives less hectic, many of them still find themselves exhausted.

“It would have been nice if it had been a little bit longer,” Weinberg freshman Brian Retson said of New Student Week. “I would have liked to be able to unpack my room all the way.”

Before arriving, Retson took time to figure out what classes he wanted — and he’s glad he did. When would he have found the time? Both Retson and Margulies said they haven’t had enough time to make friends with other freshmen.

“You can’t really meet people because you’re always going to things,” said Margulies. “The whole social part of it is really cut short.”

Upperclassmen who participate in dorm government or other student groups also are frustrated with the schedule, which hasn’t left them time to plan social events to welcome freshmen.

Alla Karagodin, a member of the Willard Residential College executive board, tried to organize a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, but not a single person showed up. Karagodin is also cultural chairwoman of Hillel Cultural Life, where a Saturday brunch only drew 10 to 15 freshmen.

“It’s been a nightmare trying to plan social activities because the freshman schedule is so packed already,” said Karagodin, a Weinberg sophomore.

But for upperclassmen who are not involved in planning New Student Week events, the shortened settling-in time is enough. Speech senior Beth Hogan lives off-campus and hasn’t been involved in any orientation events.

“I think a shortened week is a better idea,” Hogan said. “There’s definitely enough time to get settled off campus.”