Friday, April 12, 2013

First-year wings hold students back in high school setting

By Sarah Henderson, Guest Columnist

First-year wings — most of us like them, but there are a few of us who would rather not be woken up by screechy laughter and tittering gossip at 4 a.m.
I am one of the latter. 

I’d rather deal with the short term discomfort of being mixed in with returners, than with the long term discomfort of never understanding what it is to be in college.

Pacific Lutheran University implemented first-year wings three years ago, so the seniors this year remember a time when they lived together in a community of first years and returners. 
I get it.
First years are going through a rough time.
They are leaving home, most for the first time. They are living on their own, buying their own essentials, sleeping in a room with a random person they just met.
I get it.
But first years are just that: fresh out of high school, immature and naive.
They still tend to move in packs, like high school students. They still tend to gossip, like high school students. The boys stick together in their cliques and the girls in their cliques — like a middle school dance. 
Zero mixing, awkwardness and whispers of, “OMG, we should go down the hall and play a prank on the guys.”
Get real.
These first-year wings, instead of helping first years acclimate to college life and culture, leave them to fester in their own fetid pool of mediocrity, insecurity and ridiculousness. 
First years need to get past their high school mindset. They need to be thrown into the deep end of the pool and mixed straight away with the people who have done it before.
Returners can show them how to peel a real orange, not the baby-safe Cuties we are being fed in the first-year wings.
I am not saying first-year wings are all bad. I definitely appreciated that I could commiserate about the craziness of orientation, the insanity of my college classes and the general lack of sleep when I was a first year. 
Nor am I saying that males and females cannot coexist peacefully and maturely. I am all for gender-neutral housing, and am an even stronger proponent for mixed wings, because the stigma of separating girls and boys — “no purpling” — should no longer be a thing.
And I get that returners want nothing to do with the newbies, the fresh meat, the monstrously naive first years.
But honestly, they need to get over themselves. We were all first years once upon a time.
So here is what I propose: for the good of the PLU community, first-year wings should be optional.
I did not appreciate being forced to live in a wing that was still stuck in high school. But I understand the solidarity and support a first-year wing can offer.
I just think that the PLU community, based on inclusivity and equality, would do better with more wings that mix returners with first years, so that first years are forced to mature up to the college level and leave high school behind.
It would also humble the returners and grant them a new understanding of what college culture is, can and should be.
This is not high school and should never be high school. This is college, and in order for the PLU community to be as truly inclusive and equal as it claims, the divide between first years and returners needs to break down.        

For goodness sake, let us peel our own dang oranges.