Joey McGarry/Courtesy Photo
The Class of 2024 has been handed a bad reputation, and it’s not difficult to discern why. In any given year, the freshmen’s titular “fresh-ness” is the easy butt-end of any joke. Wandering around campus with our lanyards and dorm keys, searching for our first-year seminar, we understand we look goofy, so go ahead and laugh – we’ll join you!
This year, however, the conversation skews toward a more serious topic. Although there is still humor around the freshman naivety, there is now a concern for a danger we may pose to campus involving Covid-19. These fears are understandable. Before Bates students even arrived on campus, the University of North Carolina made national news by sending its students home a week after they arrived. Notre Dame, too, experienced a spike of coronavirus cases, causing it to go fully remote.
I can imagine how this struck fear into the hearts of returning students. Being sent home from a place you’re so familiar with is terrible, and you know no experienced Bates student would be so reckless as to bring the virus to campus. It must be those that we don’t know, the freshmen, that will bring an end to our school year.
Yet, first-years do not want their college experience stripped away either. We’ve watched Covid-19 decimate the back-half of our senior year, ruining our final seasons, performances, and general shenanigans that come with the territory. Now, being thrown back into our lives as students, athletes, and general members of a community, we don’t want to go home either.
There have been mistakes. The expectations of college led some to explore creative, yet rule-breaking, ways of interacting. The large informal student gathering at Mount David, made public in an email from Vice President of Student Life Joshua McIntosh, was inexcusable. However, even if the event was entirely attended by first-years, these students are only a small fraction of the Class of 2024. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. The majority of the class waited their turn, with the rest of the school, to ensure campus safety.
Now, do you remember your first year? Do you remember the adjustment to college life? The Class of 2024 has experienced the same range of emotions from the excitement at their first college friend, to the deep sadness of missing a home-cooked meal, to the anxiety of submitting their first lab report. You were once in our shoes.
You must remember the social pressures, the desire to go out and meet new people and collaborate on group projects, and just the excitement of seeing a familiar face in unfamiliar territory. Unlike upperclassmen, this year’s freshmen entered into the unknown without the chance at a group effort. First-year center meetings took place over awkward Zoom calls, and despite maximum effort by some amazing people, AESOP was not the bonding experience it was designed to be. We had to make our first friends six feet apart with masks on. I didn’t know what my friends really looked like until our first meal together.
The best way to combat the fear of the unknown is to get to know us. Not only does the freshman class consist of some amazing students, like one that translated the Bible into Albanian or another who kayaked 140 miles of Alaska’s Prince William Sound from Valdez to Whitter, but we also make up your teammates, your club members, your classmates, and your neighbors. So don’t be afraid to say hi, and hopefully, we can be your friends too.