Calvin promotes positive “welcoming traditions”

Photo+by+Laura+Sheppard

Photo by Laura Sheppard

Many floor communities and sports teams at Calvin welcome new students with a community activity, generally called a “welcome tradition” as opposed to “initiation” or “hazing.” The purpose of these events is to promote unity within a community, but sometimes they can have the opposite effect. Calvin as an institution is aware of this problem and is working to keep the impact on each community positive.

John Witte, dean of residence life, explained the protocol behind these traditions:

“We have had guidelines for student leaders for a few years now which ensure that any welcome tradition (when well-planned) is affirming, fun and appropriate, rather than embarrassing, dangerous or inappropriate.”

This fall, there were several changes to traditional “welcomings” at Calvin. Most notably, the Beets Boxer Run became the Beets Beach Run, and instead of running around in boxers and singing to each dorm, the men of Beets delivered a beach-themed serenade.

“We haven’t taken any additional steps [to prevent hazing] this year compared to other years, though we did ask a few groups to change their plans in order for their activities to be better in line with our policy,” said Witte.

Some of the members of the Beets community were disappointed by the loss of the Boxer Run. “The Boxer Run was a well-loved tradition among my fellow men of Beets,” said sophomore Max Vruwink. “It easily stands as one of my personal favorite welcoming experiences in my early Calvin days.”

Sophomore Luke Tilma agreed. “I understand where Residence Life is coming from in their cancellation of the Boxer Run, but I was really sad to see it go this year. It’s one of my favorite memories of freshman year.”

However, Witte explained the way a more negative welcoming can turn into a tradition:

“The problem with traditions that embarrass or annoy the new students is that those students typically want to pass along that embarrassment or annoyance to the new group. They say, ‘hey, if we had to endure it, then the next group of freshman has to endure it too!’”

Ruth Vanden Bos, a sophomore in Noordewier, expressed her appreciation for positive welcomings:

“I think welcoming traditions are a really good idea because it’s a time where we [can] all get together and say ‘this is who’s on my floor.’ You get to know names and faces, and it’s really fun.”

Vanden Bos talked about her floor’s welcoming, which involved everyone throwing flour at each other and then eating Krispy Kreme donuts:

“Our hope is that it will become a tradition. It was so fun and not very much work.”

Other floors chose to participate in traditions like “four butts on a couch,” in which students from a sister and brother floor were challenged to occupy a couch for a night, four at a time in shifts of one hour each. During that hour, the students had a list of questions they could ask to get to know each other better, or they could simply talk to each other. Residence life continues to encourage welcomings that are positive and creative.

“I’m fully confident that our students can and do rise to the challenge of quality welcome traditions,” said Witte.