The week many students deem the best at Rice, Orientation Week, is only six months away, and 32 students at residential colleges have been selected as coordinators. However, some 2015 O-Week coordinators said the process did not go smoothly, with a notable decrease in interest in coordinating.
Student Success Initiatives Assistant Director Chris Landry said applicant interest varies each year and across the residential colleges.
“It’s hard to say that there was a substantial difference this year,” Landry said. “Some colleges that had not experienced ‘low’ numbers of applications did this year and some colleges that were not expecting to have many applicants had a larger number from which to choose.”
The applicant pool
According to former Martel coordinator Taylor Armstrong, a senior, Martel’s three new coordinators were the only applicants. Former coordinator James Carter, a junior at Brown College, said Brown similarly had only three interested applicants. Julia Chavez, a junior and 2015 O-Week coordinator at Sid Richardson College, experienced the same with Sid. Chavez said this was also the case when she applied to coordinate a year ago.
“I wouldn’t want to imply that because there are fewer applicants the people that end up coordinating are somehow less qualified,” Chavez said. “I remember [hearing] a comment along the lines of ‘Oh, didn’t anyone want to do it?’”
Will Rice College junior Ankush Agrawal, a former coordinator, said no Will Ricers attended an initial information session. McMurtry junior Makenzie Drukker said McMurtry received the typical number of applicants.
Lovett College senior Nirali Desai, who coordinated last year, said she believes the number of applicants differs between colleges as Landry suggested.
“This year we had more than last year, but I still think we had very few candidates — not necessarily the number we would desire,” Desai said.
Armstrong said she found the lack of interest at Martel abrupt compared to years past.
“It wasn’t a steady decline over the years, it’s just a drop — the job hasn’t changed, but I guess the ideas around it have,” Armstrong said.
Impact from op-eds
The “ideas” surrounding O-Week were heavily discussed in September when three coordinators wrote opinion pieces in the Thresher addressing the unpleasant side of coordinating O-Week.
Will Rice’s Agrawal said he felt the op-eds are partially responsible for the decrease in interest for the coordinator position.
“Not that they were false in any way — they definitely did a good job in showing what many coordinators felt, but it highlighted the negatives and didn’t focus on the positives at all,” Agrawal said. “People latch on to the negatives of the article, and that’s what they remember and could discourage people from applying.”
Martel’s Armstrong said the opinion pieces’ focus on negative realities of the role made it difficult to portray the positives to potential applicants.
“When we tried to advertise to our college — ‘Make a difference in your college!’ — it was going to deaf ears,” Armstrong said. “It was incredibly disappointing, knowing the experiences that I had and watching people be like, ‘I don’t want those experiences.’”
Lovett’s Desai was one of the coordinators to write an op-ed. Desai said she doesn’t regret writing the op-eds, and she doesn’t believe the articles changed the desire of many potential applicants.
“I think the type of person that wanted this job would’ve done it regardless of what I wrote,” Desai said.
The role of administration
Desai’s op-ed “The ugly side to O-Week coordinating” expresses her experiences with the many groups of individuals involved in O-Week, including administration.
“New students you’ve been dying to meet feel intimidated by you, advisors think they can complain about a job they didn’t do and the administration hounds you on one end as your peers criticize your conservative decisions on the other,” Desai wrote in her op-ed.
Desai said the problem with administration’s O-Week involvement is not defined by specific actions they take, but the nature of their role.
“Even if they were the most benevolent of people, the way it comes across is that their job is to regulate student life and they do that by regulating student leaders,” Desai said.
Armstrong said administrative overinvolvement with O-Week is partly responsible for the dramatic lack of interest to coordinate among students.
“Administration has their sticky little hands in every tiny thing they do and you do without them having full knowledge of how to do it properly — no one knows your college like you know your college,” Armstrong said. “I think administration needs to step back and let it be more student-run than it has been.”
Agrawal expressed contrasting opinions toward administration and their role during O-Week. He said administration and students have different priorities.
“The administration is trying to compromise between all the different [stakeholders] — students need to think on a more macro scale of how it will affect everyone,” Agrawal said.
Carter said he expected more creative autonomy when he began the coordinating “Han SolO-Week” at Brown.
“[You think] this is the only thing on campus you can completely make your own, and you can completely re-do it — which is completely a lie, it’s not true at all,” Carter said. “So if people go into it with that mindset, they’re going to be disappointed very quickly.”
Drukker said she did not have a false sense of control for McMurtry’s “MarshmallO-Week.” Drukker, along with her co-coordinators, wrote a follow up opinion piece, “More gratitude than grievances.”
“We understood we didn’t have the power to change large campus-wide events (e.g., matriculation and Rice Rally), nor did we want such an immense responsibility,” the team wrote.
Drukker said she did not feel administration’s involvement to be overreaching.
“Administration makes a good balance on letting us make decisions affecting our college culture and the way the new students come out of O-Week,” Drukker said. “I had a lot of control over a lot of things [that] were important.”
Preference for paid summer plans
Agrawal said he believes a shift in culture at Rice, where students are becoming more career-oriented, affected interest in coordinating.
“They want to do the technical positions or take the classes that will set them up for future positions and a job,” Agrawal said. “They see [coordinating] more as a volunteer opportunity [as if] there’s not much to gain out of it, which I think is totally false.”
Likewise, according to Desai, students feel pressured to acquire internships and jobs sooner than in previous years.
“Coordinators don’t get paid,” Desai said. “A lot of times, the priority of Rice students is to get a job, and [believe that] if you’re not getting a job over the summer, then what are you doing?”
Carter, who also worked an internship while he coordinated O-Week, said he believes coordinating should be paid due to rigor and time needed for the position.
“Altruism is nice, but at the end of the day, it’s a job, and you need a skill set to do it,” Brown said. “If someone’s doing it for the money and they’re going to be great, then let ’em do it.”
According to Carter, paying coordinators would increase competitiveness for positions, thus encouraging applicants to put forth their best work and selves.
Agrawal said ultimately, coordinators simply need to be devoted to new students.
“Coordinating is a tough position but you don’t need to be Steve Jobs [to coordinate],” Agrawal said. “The only requirement you really need is your passion.”