Freshmen & Cheer Activities

Last night I had dinner at Betsy’s house with some of the freshmen in the TESOL program. We had a great time! We made tacos & brownies and played a game. None of the students had ever had a taco. They enjoyed them and were happy to hear that tacos are popular in Arizona!

The evening was fun, but dinner was interrupted by a barrage of phone calls from upper classmen. The upper classmen were calling all of the freshmen to tell them that they needed to be at the soccer field in 1/2 an hour to practice for the upcoming cheer competition (it’s a dance-type activity that involves coordinated hand movements). The cheer leaders threatened to make the freshmen sing songs over and over until all of the freshmen arrived. In the end, the group of students I was with last night decided not to go because they hadn’t even signed up to participate in the cheer competition. They reasoned that since they didn’t know the hand movements, they would just mess everyone up anyway. I could tell that they were worried about it all evening. I’m not sure what their decision to not go to the soccer field meant for their classmates last night.

The cheer competition is the latest in a long list of activities imposed on freshmen. Most of the activities are easily classified as hazing. At the beginning of the school year, freshmen were required to sing songs at the soccer field every night. They had to sing the songs until the upper classmen let them go home. They never went home before midnight. While they were singing, the upper classmen would yell at them and humiliate them, sometimes making them cry. Sometimes the cheerleaders made the freshmen run around campus in the evenings. I saw this a few times. The freshmen looked so tired! During the school day, the freshmen were summoned to mandatory meetings put together by upper classmen in their majors. The meetings usually consisted of upper classmen yelling at the freshmen and teaching them how to “respect” older students.

The system of respect is really strange to me. The freshmen really feel obligated to respect upper-classmen by doing whatever they’re asked to do. So it was a big deal last night when the freshmen decided not to go to the cheer practice.

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