The Importance of First Impressions

by Cassidy Lawson

Well friends, it finally happened today! Our first round of first year students moved into JMU this morning (JMU does move in across two separate days to break up the traffic congestion). The morning was filled with lines of cars, orientation guides in yellow shirts, and excitement from the students and their parents, as they’re about to begin a new chapter in their lives. I looked around at our beautiful campus and the perfect weather we had for the day and thought how wonderful it would be to arrive on campus as a first year, knowing this would be my new home for the next four years.

However, sometimes due to circumstances beyond our control as SA professionals, things don’t go as planned and bad first impressions can be made. I bring this up because of the recent story in the news about Old Dominion University and the offensive banners that were hung on a fraternity’s house. If you haven’t heard the story, the chapter of Sigma Nu at ODU hung signs from their house during Move-In Day that said things such as, “Freshman Daughter Drop Off-Leave Mom Too” and “Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time”. At face value, it could be argued that these signs are harmless, but I think we all can imagine that the perception behind the meaning of these signs can be very harmful. I’m not going to go into the offensive and hurtful implications that result from these signs because then we would be here all day. I think the thing that hurts me more is seeing a video interview with a few female first year students who responded to the signs as “funny” and “to be expected from college boys”. The fact that people are responding in this way to these signs further perpetuates the fact that there is a serious problem in our communities. This kind of behavior needs to stop, especially with the recent awareness of sexual assault on our college campuses. This fraternity chapter was recently suspended for their behavior, but they’re definitely not the only ones who are doing this kind of thing.

I still remember very clearly my first move in day into Lovill Hall at Appalachian State University in 2008 and driving past a frat house that had very similar signs hung up. I remember getting a very uneasy feeling and not really sure if I should laugh or think that those signs were wrong. No first year student should have to feel that way on move in day. Move in should be an exciting and welcoming time where the student and the parent feel as comfortable as possible. It’s a shame that some students don’t understand the implications of their actions on first year students and the campus community.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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