Reviewing the Previewers

Twice a year they come. In hordes, flooding the dining hall, the bathrooms, and you don’t even want to go into the PVG lobby. The Western Weekenders have arrived. And before they descend on the campus, there is much preparation. You’ll receive emails and flyers in your box begging you to host them in your room. “We really need you!”,”The more the merrier!” And the ever enticing, “You can get CCS credit!” What do you say? Is, “Yes, bring it on!” your battle cry? No. Deny your Christian instincts and bar your door. Hosting a high school student in your room is a poor decision. Their presence detracts from your schoolwork, takes away from our classrooms, and isn’t a quality investment of anyone’s time.
Seeing as I’m a junior here at Western Baptist, you think I would have learned. But no, I have hosted would-be Warriors every Western Weekend since my freshman fall semester. Six efforts at appearing welcoming and open to high school students have resulted in six weekends being ruined and wasted. I don’t recall ever having the opportunity to complete a homework assignment which was due the following day during a hosting weekend. They have a multitude of planned activities which you are strongly encouraged to attend as well in order to promote an inviting spirit. While in the dorm room with them, you’re instructed to chat about their goals and aspirations, as well as share your own along with the reasons you attended college. There goes more homework time. And it’s hinted that your guests will think more highly of you if you take them out on the town. Homework? Who needs homework? We want to communicate to them that college is all about relationships, having fun, spending money, and never studying, correct? But if you think about it, you don’t even need to do homework due the next day because when you arrive in the classroom, it has been taken over by the same minions who kept you up until 3:00 am last night!
The professors in our classrooms also want to promote a spirit of warmth to these guests. After all, they very well could be the future class they teach. We’re asked to give up our seats to them. We’re asked to recite our names and majors to them. We’re asked to spend time playing get-to-know-you games with them. So we spend a quarter of the class time giving the Weekenders a chance to introduce themselves and say where they’re from, and what they want to major in, and what their favorite country’s flag looks like. This followed by another portion of time allowing the visitors to get to know us. Then the prof realizes just how much time has been spent on the company and rushes to complete the lesson plans for the day. So we get information intended to fit into fifty minutes now fit into thirty or even twenty. We’re paying for this. It’s amazing the teachers don’t dissuade us from attending on Western Weekend Fridays in order to lower their own stress level. I could sure use the day off, considering Western Weekends are scheduled right before Thanksgiving in the fall (a prime homework and paper time), and in the middle of February in the spring (do I hear the word “midterms”)? Wait, we don’t want to portray fun-loving, socialite college students, we want to display frazzled, stressed out, homework addicted college students. A somewhat confusing view, don’t you think?
Not that all of the previewers even attend classes. My first experience with hosting students brought seven girls into my room; none of whom attended a class or chapel. Their interests lay more in shopping and visiting the local movie theater. This year, my previewers told me that “they weren’t required to attend anything because they would be transfers if they came to Western.” That, and they already knew what went on in every class – they’d taken them through a private Christian high school. If you ask any college student here, the majority of them will admit that guests don’t get an accurate view of what the college is like when they visit. It’s a common joke among current students that the worst time to be a student of Western – during the Preview weekends – is also the best time. The logic behind this statement? The food in the cafeteria. All of our favorite dishes such as lemon chicken, chicken cordon bleu, devil’s food cake, snickers cheesecake, you name it, it’s there. Casually added into the menu at just the right time so that prospective students will say, “It’s so cool that you guys get to choose from all this great food.” I don’t know how often I’ve bitten my tongue to keep from mentioning the fact that on Monday when all the leftovers are gone, it’s back to jambalaya stew and gravy-covered mystery meat.
The food isn’t the only thing altered. Chapel is conveniently scheduled with either passionate praise and worship or the campus chaplain speaking. In fact, this spring, they combined the two. In all three years of my attendance, there has never been a guest speaker for Western Weekend. There’s never been a camp day, a missionary, a music or drama chapel. It could be proposed that we are trying to “put on our church clothes” when it comes to our spiritual emphasis hour.
Finally, let’s look at the social sphere. Scheduled activities abound. There is the choir and band concert (which again detracts from class by pulling all of the music students out of their classrooms). There is a basketball game or two. There is movie and board game time in the PVG lobby or the gym complete with snacks provided by Aramark! The planned fun doesn’t cease until 1:00 am, when the guests are left asking us, “So what do you guys do for fun around here?” And we just look at them and think ”usually not this kind of stuff, believe me.” It’s somewhat discouraging to be asked by guest students to put down my homework and entertain them after they’ve been all revved up by organized play time.
All this to ask, are preview weekends that beneficial for future students? Not really. Are preview weekends beneficial for the college? Perhaps. Are preview weekends beneficial for current students? No. They keep us from doing our homework, they interrupt our learning in the classroom, and they are sculpting an image of what college life is like which isn’t quite accurate. I understand that these prearranged preview days may be a big draw for Western but they could certainly be better structured. There are high school students who attend these weekends to get away from home, with no intention of attending the school at all. They know people here by name, simply from coming so many times. Somehow, I doubt that’s what the college wants. Considering this is a time-honored tradition among many colleges, I also doubt this system will change anytime in the near future. Do the people who plan preview weekends know some of the things which go on? At any rate, my hosting days are over. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go put my furniture where it belongs. My preview students moved it to make room for their 17 stuffed animals’ weekend “college vacation” bash. The whole party just left to visit the next college. And there is much rejoicing.