The University of Virginia is unveiling new programming for incoming students, with a raft of free offerings designed to make a safe, fun welcome to the University.
Formerly known simply as fall orientation, “Wahoo Welcome” coincides with move-in weekend, Aug. 18 and 19, when members of the Class of 2021, transfer and graduate students arrive in droves to residence halls and other living quarters around Grounds.
Much of the new programming is squarely intended to encourage students to stay away from the so-called “Block Party” on Wertland Avenue. A dangerous annual gathering, President Teresa A. Sullivan this week called on the student community to put an end to the party, which she said “has as its single purpose pursuing risky and harmful behavior including but not limited to consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol.”
(The private event occurs off Grounds so the University cannot act directly to stop it.)
A list of programming for the early days of Fall semester can be found here. Fall semester classes begin Aug. 22. A sample of the offerings includes:
“Lambeth Late Night” at Lambeth Commons will feature a DJ and free food. At the Aquatic and Fitness Center, a carnival-like atmosphere will be in full swing, with food trucks, a photo booth, a mechanical bull, an obstacle course and more. There will also be University-sponsored after-hours, non-alcoholic activities going on all around Grounds until 2 a.m.
Also making a return appearance is “Something in a Mug.” Students can select the mug of their choice and fill it with everything from root beer floats to hot chocolate. Students can opt to stay in their residence halls to enjoy movies and games with their advisers.
The programming is designed to give new students an early glimpse of the University community, said Marsh Pattie, assistant vice president for student affairs and associate dean of students.
“First and foremost, our hope is that students will take away a sense of what this community is about, and that there are safe ways to have fun and engage with one another that do not involve alcohol,” he said.
Pattie said the activities also will allow new students to build relationships with one another and with returning students in a safe, inclusive environment. Pattie also hopes the programming will encourage students to continue to participate in UVA’s after-hours, alcohol-free activities, which is organized between the student-run, University Programs Council and other partners around the University.
The council coordinates various after-hours programs Thursdays through Saturdays throughout the academic year. Previous activities have included open-mic nights, a Cavalier Casino event and a winter pool party. “We want all of our students to know those activities will be an option for them on weekend nights,” Pattie said.
UVA Police and Safety Ambassadors will be on patrol. “I want to stress that they are a resource students should have no hesitation engaging for help and assistance,” he said.
Getting Down to Business
“Wahoo Welcome” also includes Opening Convocation the evening of Aug. 20. First-year and transfer students are required to attend this official welcome to UVA on the Lawn, where they are formally introduced to UVA’s honor code and sign the honor pledge.
Earlier on Aug. 20, first-year students will be required to attend “Grounds for Discussion,” a student-directed and -performed theatrical production in Old Cabell Hall. Skits will focus on issues and decisions facing first-year students, like roommate disagreements, drinking, upholding the honor code, eating disorders and sexual assault. Follow-up discussions in residence halls with resident assistants will complement the performances.
Week One with ‘Saturday Night Live’ Cast Member Aidy Bryant, and More
The UVA welcome continues into next week with more programming.
Student Council’s Fall Activities Fair will be held Aug. 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the lower Lawn in front of Old Cabell Hall and in the McIntire Amphitheatre. In the largest student activities fair of the year, more than 340 different clubs will be on hand to share information with new students.
The University Programs Council will hold “UPC Welcome Week.” Highlights include an outdoor movie night at Observatory Hill Field on Aug. 20 at 9 p.m., following the Opening Convocation. The attraction? “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” and free snacks.
Rotunda Sing, a favorite tradition at the University, will be held Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. UVA’s many a cappella groups will entertain students from the Lawn-side steps of the Rotunda.
The big attraction on Aug. 24 is a free comedy show by “Saturday Night Live” cast member Aidy Bryant, whose popular sketches include “Girlfriends Talk Show.” Bryant, who is returning to “Saturday Night Live” for her fifth season, performs at 9 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall.
University Programs Council Chair Nolan Reilly, a rising fourth-year student majoring in leadership and public policy, said part of the council’s mission is to offer students alternatives to going to bars. The first week of programming is designed to say, “Hey, here are some positive UVA traditions,” Reilly said. “Whenever we are putting together a program, we are asking, ‘What does the UVA student body not have?’ We are hoping to fill that niche.”