August 24, 2007

President Daniel Weiss Welcomes Students to Lafayette

“What we’re about to embark on together is a very special journey,” he says

President Daniel Weiss addressed the Class of 2011 today at the Convocation opening Lafayette’s 176th academic year.

Good morning! It’s great to see all of you here. I’m sure it seems in some ways like you’ve been here at Lafayette for a long, long time sitting somewhere having people give you advice and tell you what do and what not to do and where to go and how this is all supposed to work.

We are truly delighted to welcome you here. This is a very special moment in the life of the College. I said that yesterday and I repeat it today. There is a ritual associated with the beginning of the academic year. This is why we wear our academic robes when we come and speak to you, this is why we have these ceremonies: because what we’re about to embark on together is a very special journey that is unique in higher education.

That has to do with the kind of promises we make to each other and the commitments that we make to learning together, to joint discovery, to academic integrity. We want you to understand what those commitments are.

Arguably, you will remember almost nothing that is said to you today – with the exception of all the words of David Clary! Other than that you’ll remember nothing, except that today was one of the major milestones in your lives because you’re beginning your independent lives as adults, you’re beginning your college career, you’re on your way to something very special. You’re gathered together here for the first time or the second time with this group of strangers that will become your classmates and lifelong friends.

Though you might not know each other now, you will become best of friends. Some of you will marry each other (you can look around and start thinking about that). But it’s true. This class, this community that’s beginning to form, will become deeply meaningful in your lives, in ways that will surprise you. People that you’ll meet that you’ll think you don’t have so much in common with, that they probably aren’t going to turn out to be great friends, may very well be great lifelong friends. That’s part of this great adventure.

Your class is extraordinarily diverse and talented. Fifty-three percent of you are men and 47 percent of you are women. More than one in five of you are students of color. You’re a talented international group with experience from around the globe that will help to enlighten the learning experience for each of you. And all of those things contribute to making this experience of being together as students at Lafayette very special.

All of these ideas are very lofty, and there is a lot of aspiration and inspiration today. But I know you are also sitting there thinking, “OK, this so going on for, like, eight more minutes, and then I have to go to the orientation class and I have this and that to do. And what about my roommate; I’m not so sure about him or her. That doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out so well. And what’s the social scene like here? Is there anything to do? And how about the fact that I don’t even have a car?”

All of those issues, I know, are in your minds, but let me reassure you and advise you to take one day at a time. We know what we’re doing here in getting you acclimated to this life. We’re going to keep you very busy because we want you to see lots of things, to experience lots of things, to meet lots of people right now, so that you’ll begin to feel like you’re a part of Lafayette before the weekend is over.

Take one day at a time, relax, enjoy this process, engage in it, and let us take you on this journey together. You’re surrounded by people who are dedicated to your success and well-being. I hope you take time to thank your fellow students, the orientation leaders, the RA’s – all the students who have worked so hard to welcome you here, carrying your stuff out of the car to your room and all of that. It is part of our way of telling you that you’re a part of this community. Reach out to them and let them know that you appreciate it.

I can’t resist giving a little bit of advice because that’s what today is, the advice parade. I’ll just say a few more very brief things. As quickly as possible, reach out and get to know the faculty. They’re the heart of this institution. They do the teaching. They will help you with your learning and your experience and mentor you and prepare you for careers. They are deeply dedicated to that mission and they are happy to work with you and to talk to you.

That’s the first bit of advice (or maybe the sixth, I don’t know). Beyond that, go beyond your own fears and limitations. Take chances, explore, take courses you may be afraid you can’t pass. Get out there and try different things, and I promise you your life will be changed as a result. If you sit back and be risk-averse and try to be very careful about what you should and shouldn’t be doing, the end result is you’re not going to be challenged, you’re not going to grow, and you’re not going to have as much fun.

It is very important also to practice respect for others. This is arguably one of the most diverse communities you’ve ever been in. You’re going to be living close to people you don’t know. They’re going to annoy you, I promise you that! They don’t like the music you like, they get up early, they . . . whatever. Part of the process of being together and living in this environment is to learn how to deal with people who have different views or different behavior. Learn from them, respect them, be straight with them, but that’s part of what this is about. If we have a community that’s truly respectful, we have a better learning environment. It works better. I ask you to be very careful about doing that.

Academic integrity is crucial to this mission we’re on together. If we can’t trust you as students, we can’t work with you. The system completely collapses. So, we ask you to understand what academic integrity is about. If you have doubts or questions, talk to us, and we’ll explain to you how to use the internet properly, or how to cite sources, or whatever it is. But don’t make the mistake of engaging in academic dishonesty for the sake of expediency.

All of this is to say that you’re about to begin a great adventure. It’s going to be different from what you expect, it’s going to fun, it’s going to be enlightening.

We’re just delighted you’re here. Welcome and congratulations!

posted in Faculty and Staff, News and Features, Presidential News, Students

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