1. THE NEW AND WHAT IS THERE FOR YOU
When new to a place, many of us have felt bewildered as to what is going on, what the place is about, which things in the place most suit one's own likes and personality.
In Cambridge, three things aimed at this are College Parenting, Freshers Week and the Socfair/Soc Squash weeks that follow. These in many cases do a good job.
Freshers Week and Parenting establish College ties for the first week and then the Socfair/Soc Squash season introduce extra mostly inter-collegiate opportunities.
2. HOWEVER. I. GRADUATE FRESHERS (see here for more).
Freshers Week is not exactly optimally designed for those in their early 20's who have, on the one hand, probably grown up, but on the other hand certainly don't know Cambridge and may well be intimidated by it both academically and socially.
Grad-freshers have less immediate peers, are somewhat less likely to be in College/Departmental Parenting schemes.
Grad-freshers have less free time, and sometimes arrive other than during Freshers Week.
Some of the university societies treat Graduates as second-class citizens, whether overtly, covertly or implicitly via substantial political exclusion ("almost all the committee posts are solely for undergraduates" is an occasionally written and often unwritten state of affairs).
3. SOME RESOLUTIONS TO 2
Grad Colleges and MCR's should be encouraged to offer options in Freshers' Week.
They and Departments might consider that the improptu welfare value of undergraduate parenting extends to graduates.
Those societies that are more inclusive of graduates should be encouraged to fly flags saying so, on squash emails, event announces and such as constituitions. Lists of such (and parallels, like "is equally inclusive of Anglia Ruskin", or "is equally inclusive of ex-uni and non-uni people) would be useful. See here for more
HOWEVER. II. SHY AND DIFFERENT PEOPLE
Some people take larger amounts of time to meet people, make friends and elsewise settle in.
In the sense of taking longer to, say, meet 20 people, or make their first or second meaningful friend, some people are in effect staying longer in what is usually a ``first arrival" state.
The Shy/Unassertive/Non-Outgoing may well have a different timescale on which they can comfortably do such things. In this sense, they are the `first harmonic' of New.
The Different can in some cases take even longer, possibly forever. Some people who think for themselves don't actually want to be in an archetypal group of friends (fairly closed, all mutually accepting, often with not much width of agreed views). Such may well judge each person on an individual basis (and be repeatedly brushed aside by people they get on with but who belong to over-demanding intolerant groups). So the Different are more or less all of the higher harmonics of `New'.
This is much of how the New, the Shy and the Different fit together as a unit as a wellbeing issue and as regards what respite such can find.
One of our basic concerns is then that the 1-week long Freshers week and then 2-week-long Squash period concentrates almost all of the welcomingness and acceptance into too narrow a timeframe as regards many of those who need it most.
SOME RESOLUTIONS TO HOWEVER. II.
1) Some Societies should value spreading out their resources. For instance by having meets later on in the year than Squash Meets that are specifically advertised as particularly for new people who will very definitely be shown around the soc's activity and people to the extent that they wish. In this sense we much appreciate the Rocksoc Freshers' Gig having been as late as the the 5th of November this term (2011). We'd love to see a smaller Start-of-Lent Socfair particularly for socs that value taking in people who largely didn't find any socs that took them in well in Michaelmas (or for socs rendered small enough to be willing to make the effort). This point should be squared against our Logistics article concerning expected attendence as a function of term-week, which will eventually be linked *here*.
2) Parenting schemes should have multiple phases, a bit like open play in Rugby. As we explained here, people should be welcome to change parents, adopt straylings, start up society versions of parenting at any point in the year. At a more organized level, any MCR Committee or Deaprtmental people reading this should know there's nothing wrong with starting to set up a voluntary parenting scheme at any point of the year (especially at Michaelmas' end or at the start of Lent, if not in time to do so for Michaelmas' start).
3) There should be awareness that the archetypal group is not the only form of socializing, or the only form of socializing that may be sought by independent-minded people. Thus some events and societies that are based on other than the archetypal group should be encouraged. These include occasionally-meeting Safer Spaces (where tolerance and apologies are guaranteed, so vulnerable people can interact free of fear), and indeed the College Parenting (which is a small-numbers interaction). Other instances include both online-based social activities and social activities with specifically no online component (as not all people are comfortable with that and it can have a tendancy to over-dominate some societies). They also include the Starpoint: a person who meets diferent people in different places and then introduces some of them to each other (our own view of the Starpoint is a platonic friendship forger, Not a "match-maker"). The Starpoint may additionally have parties for all the people they know. A Starpoint who is also a welfare officer may also announce "botherable hours", which are much like office hours. We agree that not all welfare functions can be performed during these, particularly if many people turn up at once, but some good can come of it, provided that one accepts the multi-plan: if alone one can be confidential, but if there's a group one gets introductions instead. In both cases one gets to be welcome, a cup of tea and cake.
4) People who may well be shy or different may sometimes do well out of being aware of that and then reading suggestions for such such as these pages. We however maintain that people should not need to have to identify as such in order to settle in. Nor should any shy person ever feel compelled to become assertive. Nor should any different people feel the need to conform. (Other than if they are repeatedly abusive toward others, in which case many socs and essentially all welfare services - certainly SAS and Linkline - and safer space providers reserve the right to ask a such to leave. In such a case they are free to not conform either, it's just that if they can't or won't curb their abuse, some places will simply refuse to let them take part).
Thus, let there be awareness that shy and different people may take more than the "usual" amount of time to settle in, and it would be nice for the JCR's, MCR's and some of the Socs to acknowledge this. Nor should being shy or different be a reason for stigma; the key is for everyone to accept that some people might be looking for a new Soc in mid-Lent, in their second year etc.
[By Captain Softpoms, following discussion with Un-named 1 and 2.]
To join the Soc-Group that wrote this, join this email list or email altwelcome-general *at* srcf.net, and abide by the sketch of our Soc-Group's kind of Constitution.