Welcome, Febs

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Graphic by Jill Stauffer

One hundred and seven first-year students arrived on campus Feb. 6 to begin their orientation. These new students, commonly called Febs, are part of a tradition which began at Middlebury College nearly fifty years ago. Febs bring unique perspectives and talents to the Middlebury community. We are excited to meet all 107 new students and we’d like extend a warm welcome to the Class of 2022.5.  

The first couple months of college can be difficult. It can be hard to adjust to a new place filled with new people, challenging courses and the stressors of living apart from family. This can be even harder when you arrive on campus and there are other first-years who have been here for five months already and seem to have things figured out. 

As the spring semester begins, we are reminded of the barriers that often prevent Febs and September admits, sometimes called Regs, from getting to know each other. For the most part, these issues are institutional, having to do with housing and the Feb Orientation process. 

Febs are sometimes placed on first-year halls with other students, but many are sprinkled throughout the campus in buildings like Starr Hall. We recognize that the Feb program exists in part to fill the rooms left empty by students going abroad, so awkward housing assignments may sometimes be inevitable. But we think better programming can help ameliorate some issues and encourage students living near each other to interact more. 

We also realize that approaching students from other years can be intimidating for new Febs. Since each Feb class is small and goes through an intensive orientation process, many know almost everyone in their Feb class — but almost nobody outside of it.

Several initiatives have tried to improve integration between the classes, but they have produced middling results, in part because students are not given enough guidance. For example, the Feb-Reg “buddy” program has led to awkward experiences for Febs when their “buddies” try to include them in large group activities without taking the time to get to know them on an individual basis first. 

Members of our board have observed that new Febs and first-year students don’t seem to mingle at events that are specifically intended to give them opportunities to get to know each other, like Commons dinners. 

Part of the problem with initiatives and events like these is that they do not feature activities that push people out of their comfort zones. Of course, events should be appealing enough to attract attendees, but as they exist now, the students who participate are not given a real chance to make new friends. It would be better if events had more carefully delineated activities that made it difficult for students to keep to their pre-established friend groups. For example, orientation leaders could facilitate a Midd Uncensored event — the popular discussion-based program that takes place at September and February orientations — between first-years and first-year Febs. 

These events could also be better publicized. Most students find social activities on Facebook, so each Commons should use that platform to promote events.

Students who arrive at Middlebury in the Fall can fear seeming arrogant to the Febs who arrive just one semester later, so they may be hesitant to offer advice, but this community is one where most people want to be helpful and kind. So ask for help if you need it. 

We also encourage all students to invite potential friends, hall mates or classmates to grab a meal. The dining halls are some of the most social spaces on this campus. 

Another opportunity for friendship-building that could come from students themselves are joint events between FYCs and FebYCs. FYCs from different Commons sometimes combine events to give first-years the chance to get to know each other, and the same thing could easily be applied to first-year Febs and first-years. 

And the single most important piece of advice that we can offer this year’s new Febs is to join clubs and participate in other extracurricular activities. The student activities fair will be held this Friday, and it is a great way for Febs to get to know fellow students in every year who share common interests and passions. 

Middlebury needs more, better institutional support for social integration between Febs and non-Febs, especially those in their first year. With the college having just proposed changes to the residential life system, we look forward to seeing how community-building opportunities will expand in the future. 

The adjustment period after arriving college is just that — a period — and will pass with time. Febs, you too will soon begin to find your groove, your people and your interests. Your path to graduation may not be the same as most students on campus, but with some effort — and, we hope, added support from the college community — it will still be a good one.