Sunday, September 19, 2004

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The return of the Velcro ® pack

The wife and boy and the girl and the dog and I live close (but not too close) to campus, and without ever checking an academic calendar, we know when school is about to start -- it's when the Velcro ® pack of college students has its brief half-life.

Incoming first-years naturally congregate in dorm-size bundles for the first week or two -- because they don't know anyone else. Before classes start, these large packs will migrate across campus, appearing to observers as if they are bound by some invisible set of Velcro fasteners. A few minutes before typing this, the first Velcro pack walked by our place.

Once classes start, and a few weeks go by, these large student clusters disappear. The initial insecurity that binds these groups together begins to dissipate; some students discover that they don't necessarily want to hang out with some of their dormmates; others discover friends with like-minded interests; and now, of course, there are those who stay in their dorm room, in pajamas, pathetically surfing the Internet.

So these large band of students will soon be subdividing. But their annual recurrence is always an endearing feature for those of us who manage to stay in a college environment for our working lives.

[Classes haven't started already?--ed. The University of Chicago is on the quarter system, so classes start later here than those universities on the semester system. They also end later in the year.]

posted by Dan on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM


Remembering being the parent of a first-year (now a fourth-year) and at the time I gave pause to why mine subdivided from the onset - I can now reflect and say the values that brought her to The University of Chicago were the same that supported her independence. These values are why the college attracts (like velcro) students who value ideas, who seek a place to establish their voice. They do arrive insecure but they leave with a sense of self.

posted by: djack on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

Hey, don't diss on us shut-in internet surfers.

posted by: william on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

Totally OT, sorry, but what is the attraction of the quarter system? Compared to semesters it has 50% more overhead in registration, submtting grades, etc., and the cost of missing time seems higher also.

What are the offsetting benefits?

posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

Hey, if we never shut ourselves indoors in pajama's, we'd never come across YOUR site! ;-)

posted by: David on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

Professor Andrew Abbott defends the quarter system here.

posted by: Will Baude on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]


Finals before Christmas.

Shorter, more intense courses. Harder to procrastenate.

More total courses taken, if you wish.

Gives academics something to debate.

posted by: Richard A. Heddleson on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

Cute post, well-observed. But please, don't feel you have to do the heavy lifting for trademark lawyers by attaching the litle R to the word Velcro. You're confusing the world of commerce with the world of letters.

posted by: RWD on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

Back in the day, when fresh-people were called 'shmen, we used to use the name 'shmobs for what you're calling a "Velcro Pack."

It's all very cute, I suppose.

posted by: Thea_Fenchel on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

I vaguely remember shambling about in my first year pack because:

1. the O-aides told us to do it
2. nobody had a map
3. usually there was an o-aide in the pack who knew where Ryerson was and could explain how to enter Crear and more importantly navigate the intricate stairwells of pierce
4. most of us had never been in a big city and since the o-aide presentation at the begining of the program laid out the critical importance of not crossing certain physical boundaries, I suppose we were all a little freaked out by the idea of getting lost.

once we became comfortable with hyde park (or at least the campus grounds) then we slowly merged with the population of lassiez-faire second, third, and fourth years. If the pack disappeared it had more to do with the pace of classes (who has time to shamble about like zombies when you're late for lab?) then our inability to socialize and sudden dislike of dorm mates.

who remember traveling exactly one place with her roommate - the Aims of Education address.

posted by: c. on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

I find groups of international students even funnier. Being a foreigner myself, however, I got to appreciate this phenomenon at the beginning of my first semester at PennState. The campus is huge (compared to where I went for undergrad) and spotting packs of Asian kids made finding my way around much much easier!

posted by: petya on 09.19.04 at 12:30 AM [permalink]

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