Lack of Activities Frustrates First-Year Students

As a first-year who has been at Oberlin for all of four weeks, I find it difficult to engage with my peers in an unstructured way. I’m never sure whom to text on a Saturday night or what I should suggest we do. Bowling? Backgammon? I would love, instead, to attend an activity that has been planned either by the Program Board or a student organization, with the assurance that other students will be there. After all, I’ve been told that one of the best ways to meet people in college is to attend on-campus events. 

Unfortunately, despite the 175 student organizations that the College boasts on its website, it feels impossible to find events on weekends. Even though the College has an official channel through which to post events, many are not posted there. It seems as though only official departments, either academic or administrative, are permitted to utilize that space.

Thus, event postings tend to be spread out between various Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts and the occasional set of posters on bulletin boards in various academic buildings, easily overlooked in the rush to get from class to class or overshadowed by the numerous other posters about on-campus employment or career workshops for fourth-years. In order to find an event, you either have to go to the social media pages of the individual sponsoring organization or hear about it by word of mouth. The few postings that do exist are sometimes incomplete. This past weekend, I saw a posting about a trivia night that listed the time but not the venue.

When I’ve voiced my concerns, older students have told me that, at some point, I’ll get into the groove. It will become easier as time goes on, and I’ll learn the intricacies of Oberlin’s messy and over-complicated event-broadcasting system. While I’m sure they mean well, what I hear is that the way I’m feeling right now doesn’t matter. I’m hearing that my status as a first-year means I don’t deserve the security of knowing that I won’t spend every Saturday night alone. 

I shouldn’t have to wait until something magically clicks and I figure it out. The time at the beginning of my college journey, when I don’t yet have strong relationships with my classmates, is the time when it is most important for me to be able to find events and meet people.  

Twine, an app designed by Oberlin students a few years ago, was supposed to be a solution to this problem. The purpose of the app is to be a forum for organizations to post events, so everything can be consolidated and easily accessible. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Just over 50 of the student groups are actually on Twine, and many of their pages don’t actually list events. Rather, they list only bygone social media accounts that haven’t been active in months or have since changed their handles, making them more difficult to find. 

Other student organizations don’t use Twine at all. It takes combing through the individual list of organizations — which doesn’t appear to be updated on the College website’s clubs and organizations page — to find events, and even then it is sometimes exceedingly difficult. 

The other problem with Twine is that many students, especially first-years, do not use it or even know that it exists. For something so crucial to the student experience, there needs to be better communication about its existence than a few posters on bulletin boards around campus. 

It is also possible that this is not merely an issue of failure to communicate events to students. Rather, it could be that there is a lack of events themselves. Many clubs choose to meet during the week, when students are swamped with homework or just exhausted from long days of classes. There seems to be a large number of weekend concerts, at least one or two each week, but standing and watching someone perform is not an effective way to get to know people. 

If, in fact, Oberlin is lacking weekend events and they are not merely communicated poorly, that is something that must be addressed. Program Board, venues, and student-led organizations must make an effort to sponsor engaging events or meetings on the weekends. This doesn’t have to cost money. An open mic night or a scavenger hunt in town would be invaluable in alleviating first-year blues. If you can, move your club’s weekly meeting from Tuesday evening to Saturday. Host a Jeopardy! night about topics relevant to your club. 

As the year progresses, it will be less important to have structured events on weekends, but one month into the school year, when new students are just getting to know each other, we desperately need things to do on weekends so we can connect with one another and enjoy our first weekends on campus. Find times over the weekend, plan some fun activities, and most importantly, please advertise them on Twine.