August term starts off well, leaves growing room


This year marked the beginning of a brand new program at Transylvania.

August term has replaced first-year orientation and University 1111. The class of 2016 arrived on campus Aug. 10 and participated in three weeks of a credit/no credit “First Engagements” critical reading course. While the program concluded without any major mishaps, this year is merely a starting point for future improvements.

Academically speaking, August term was a success. With a low failure rate and positive feedback from participants, the program is off to a strong start. Everyone involved should be commended for the hours put in last semester and this summer to ensure that the program ran smoothly. Residence Life staff, faculty members and upperclassmen scholars brought enthusiasm and creativity to August term.

Though in its inaugural year, August term certainly did not get by without criticism from the wider Transy community. For first-year athletes, the schedule did not leave time to rest; students were rushed between three-hour classes, required sessions and multiple practices each day. The first week was especially busy. Students unpacked, scheduled their fall semester and attended longer classes with information sessions every afternoon.

This complaint was recognized by the administration and will be under revision as planning for next year’s August term begins. John Svarlien, classics professor and director of August term said that Transy was very ambitious in its planning, but over-scheduling was “fatiguing.” There is already talk of “pulling back,” especially during the first week of the program.

Another concern from observant outsiders was that the newest group of first-years developed an exclusive class identity. Some have remarked that providing this class of around 330 students with an exclusive environment may have turned this program with stellar intentions into an extension of high school… complete with cafeteria cliques and all.

With a campus empty of organizations, Greek life, and general mixing and mingling, students were quick to form cliques that survived past Labor Day Weekend and upperclassmen move-in. This may be a natural outcome of such a program, but it should not be encouraged.

One noticeable aspect of August term was the nearly non-existent influence of upperclassmen. While actions were taken to prevent any negative influence on first-years, this also kept away any potential positive influence from existing. For the most part, the only upper-class students admitted on campus for the full three-week term were Resident Advisors and August term Scholars.

This naturally presents a sort of culture shock for the students who had entered into a nearly-empty campus that catered to them and soon had to adjust to one full of unfamiliar upperclassmen, ready to take their new place in the hierarchy of a collegiate community.

It is up to the entire campus to figure out how to deal with the culture change that comes with the new addition of August term. Without a doubt, this will take time. We can not expect a first-time program to run perfectly.

Furthermore, the transition from high school to college is a difficult one. It is the responsibility of all students to work together to make that transition as seamless as possible. As Svarlien said, first-year students are not only in an “academic pressure cooker,” but are also facing a challenging social adjustment. Therefore, “anything we can do to make them more comfortable is a good thing.”

Now that the fall term is underway, it is imperative that the August term discussion does not stop. For this to be truly successful, it needs to be a fluid program. The administration, participating faculty and students need to continue debating all aspects of First Engagements, social events and First Year Seminar. It is necessary for Transy to reevaluate this program year after year for it to improve.

The program has been set up to do just that. All faculty will be teaching August term on a rotation, so every year will have a wide variety of disciplines represented. Focus groups and debriefing discussions will be underway shortly, collecting the input of every group involved in this undertaking.

While August term has been called a new Transy tradition, it is good to know that not everything will change in the first-year experience. Newcomers to the community were still introduced to Lexington, with trips to a Legends game and a tour of the Farmer’s Market. First-years still received personal attention from professors.

Men and women of the incoming class still serenaded each other with cheesy Transy-inspired lyrics. Students still met each of their classmates through a greet line in Old Morrison Circle. As program changes continue and enrollment increases in coming years, the greet line will just get a little longer.


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