Editorial: Optimizing the First Six Weeks Campaign

By the Editorial Board Facebook page of the Skidmore Social Norms campaign

As first-year students arrive on campus and begin to acclimate to academics and social life at Skidmore, the administration is in the process of rolling out two major community health and awareness campaigns designed to positively affect student behavior and mold social norms. The Office of the Dean of Student Affairs is responsible for the First Six Weeks campaign, which is designed to facilitate a sense of community amongst first-year students by introducing them to the wide variety of events taking place on campus during the eponymous first six weeks of the semester. The Office of Health Promotion is sponsoring the Skidmore College Social Norms campaign, a program designed to recalibrate students’ understanding of ‘normal’ student behavior.

The College is clearly taking action to reform how students view and participate in social life on campus, encouraging “healthy and responsible” decision-making. The programs are particularly targeted towards first-years. The wide variety of First Six Weeks events, from community service to lectures and social events, reflects the diversity of interests and backgrounds on this campus and should provide ample opportunity for interested first-year students to become more involved in the community. The Editorial Board applauds the development of these programs and the intent behind them. College is a vulnerable time for everyone, but never is this vulnerability more evident than the beginning of the first year.

However, the Board has several suggestions from to improve the campaigns. To us, these campaigns are designed to introduce students to alternatives to drinking (“Trivia Night and Mocktails,” for example) and to facilitate introductions to their peers who may not be interested in consuming alcohol or using drugs. This is a prudent move, but the Board believes that there is a need for revision in order to properly preempt drinking and drug abuse. Many of the events designed to replace inebriated partying do not serve as effective substitutes because they are scheduled before most parties and drinking starts. For example, the mocktail event is hosted on a Thursday and ends at 11 P.M., rather than being hosted on a Friday or Saturday and ending at 2 A.M. Late-night events are needed to provide alternatives for the students that do not want to drink.

However, there is a second cohort that these programs are meant to target, and that is those students that will drink. Within the first week, Skidmore has experienced problems with parties at off-campus locations. The risk goes up dramatically once a student leaves campus to party: Campus Safety is not present at off-campus venues to aid students, first-year and older, and students may have trouble getting back to campus or navigating the downtown scene, especially when inebriated. We propose that Skidmore make an effort to keep these partiers on campus, by hosting more late-night events like dances and concerts, at times when students are more likely to be drinking. This won't keep all students on campus, but it will offer a meaningful alternative to off-campus parties. Late-night events, designed to keep partying students on campus, should join lectures and earlier community events as a key component of the campaign.

In addition to more events, both programs need more effective literature and publicity efforts. There is confusion on campus about the difference between the two campaigns–albeit recognizing that there is overlap–as well as whom to turn to with questions about each program. While RAs and UAs were informed about the programs, Peer Mentors received no information about either campaign. As the first point of contact with incoming first-year students, PMs should have been well prepared with information and resources about the campaigns so that they could have presented the information to their seminar within the first week. Instead, first-years and upperclassmen alike remain confused about the objectives and components of the two programs.

The design of the literature for both programs also leaves much to be desired. Student opinion finds the cartoonish horse drawings condescending and unequivocally "uncool," the latter at least something first-year students will avoid like the plague. Posters for the First Six Weeks are so crowded with information that students neglect to stop and sort through it all.

The Editorial Board earnestly supports the intent of the College in working towards providing a healthy and safe environment for Skidmore students. We hope these suggestions are constructive for improving the school’s efforts, and we look forward to the next Six Weeks.

Field Hockey climbs the national poll

Campus Safety Report: April 18 to 24