University move-in shortened in on-campus safety push

By Shoham Geva, Summer Managing News Editor
Published July 30, 2014

Freshmen and others students living in the residence halls this coming year will see several changes to move-in this August as part of a University initiative to increase on-campus safety.

Most notably, move-in, which has run over four days in the last week of August in years past, will take place only Aug. 28 through 29 this year, with hours extended to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Groups that typically move in early will instead be housed temporarily in East Quad until Aug. 26, when they will move in to to their permanent dorms, with the exception of Move-in Makers, who will move immediately into their home buildings. MIMs are a group of students who volunteer to assist with the move-in process.

Wolverine Wellness Director Mary Jo Desprez said the change attempts to address the increased anxiety and vulnerability freshmen often feel on campus in their first few weeks, while still providing the necessary amount of time for first-year students to get acclimated to campus, a problem she added wasn’t unique to the University.

“I think every college campus is trying to find the sweet spot,” she said. “What is the time necessary for people to come in and sort of get settled, and not have so much time that that anxiety of ‘who should I talk to, ‘where should I go’, doesn’t sort of fester?”

When it comes to on-campus safety, Desprez said while new students at the University arrive with many different relationships to alcohol — some never plan to drink, some already do drink, and others have already experienced damaging effects from consumption — that anxiety and vulnerability can lead to heightened drinking incidents.

“One of the things that can happen is if they’re not careful, they can believe the hype,” she said. “ Beer commercials sort of make it sound like beer is sort of like lighter fluid, if you just add it to it everything’s hotter, better, faster, quicker. And if you’re not careful, and you have increased anxiety, you can believe that.”

The University will monitor several metrics, including the number of people transported to the hospital in emergency vehicles, to determine the success of the program.

“Do I think that condensing move-in is going to solve all our problems?” Desprez said. “No way. Because the problems are so different along the continuum. But could it help us reduce a vulnerability spot for those early few weeks? I sure hope so.”

University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said the endeavor was an important one for the University and Housing was pleased to be able to support it.

“Housing did not have any particular motivations beyond the larger University desire to try a schedule that that would promote, perhaps, safer behavior and still provide a nice, open welcome week for the incoming students,” he said.

In terms of logistics, Amir Baghdadchi, University Housing’s assistant communications director, said for the first time this year, Housing is offering students time slots to sign up for when they’ll move in, in an attempt to reduce potential congestion.

“What this allows us to do is it allows us to limit the number of people who are coming, trying to get in at the same time,” he said. “So we can ensure that Thursday, at 9 a.m. at Markley, we know that there are this many cars coming so we’ll have help there, and spots for the cars to stop and unload.”

The University has implemented several other programs over the past few years to address the issue of alcohol consumption on campus with incoming students, most notably an education program freshmen take before they arrive on campus, titled AlcoholEdu, which was implemented in 2010. University-sponsored events such as a late-night trip to Meijers with raffles and other events, resident adviser-planned activities and programs like Artscapades also take place during the break between move-in and classes as sober alternatives.

Desprez said this year’s change in move-in was spurred mostly by a new focus on four areas of collective impact for the University, including health and wellness, championed by the office of student life and E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life.

In the coming year, she said overall University efforts around alcohol consumption will also undergo a change, shifting more towards a message of holistic wellness, as well as an emphasis on collaboration between groups like Greek Life, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, Wolverine Wellness and Rec Sports on campus wide issues surrounding alcohol use.

“A lot of times we talk to students about what not to do, or don’t do this or it could hurt you, and all that kind of stuff,” Desprez said. “The other thing that you’ll hear coming out this year is really sort of a wellness frame. Not not what to do, don’t do, but these are all the ways that you can achieve your full potential.”