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Expanded Camp Harvard Spins into Gear

Opening Days schedule offers new opportunities for College’s newest students

A flurry of new patrons arrived bright and early at the Malkin Athletic Center yesterday, drawing surprise from MAC employees unused to seeing such concentrated numbers at 8 a.m., and spilling out the doors of their destination—a mirrored third floor room outfitted with 24 stationary bikes, a string of Christmas lights, and a zealous instructor promising to visit unusual pains upon the entrants.

The turnout for the occasion—billed in an online schedule of opening day events as a “dynamic stationary group cycling experience,” with the added advantage of being “set to motivating music”—appeared to be a testament to the efforts of the Freshman Dean’s Office, which has rolled out a slightly expanded program of orientation events for freshmen that includes more emphasis on academic advising, small-group recreation, and exercise.

“There’s been quite a bit of revamping since last year,” said Freshmen Dean’s Office administrator Gretchen Gringo, pointing to the work of a new Opening Days Committee that helped shoulder the work of processing student feedback from past first-year offerings and producing this year’s program.

After receiving a favorable response to small-scale evening social events last year, this year the FDO is offering cooking classes and television viewings in small venues. Yesterday evening, freshmen had the opportunity to attend programmed options that included a screening of the popular TV show “Lost” in the common room of Grays and a game of Risk in Straus.

“The really large events like the ice cream social, it’s hard to have meaningful interaction with their peers, so this gives people a chance to bond in a smaller environment,” Gringo said.

Another popular point of feedback, according to Gringo, was the desire for exercise-centered events: a fact that helped explain the apparent enthusiasm for yesterday’s spinning class, which did not place a premium on comfort.

“Since a lot of you haven’t been to an indoor cycling class before, you may feel that you have something up your rear end for the next two days,” warned the instructor, a MAC fitness manager who introduced herself to her charges as Kate.

The ensuing efforts of the class of 2012 were not expended without appropriate stimuli. The motivational music began at 8:12. Five minutes later, Kate upped the ante, creating “some ambience” by turning up the music, dimming the lights, and activating a string of Christmas lights that encircled a mirror in the front of the room.

Thirty minutes later, after a thorough introduction to the stationary bikes’ four zones of resistance—“Zone 3 you’re not really liking me, Zone 4 you’re absolutely hating me, but you’re breathing hard and you can’t tell me,” Kate explained—the burgeoning cyclists dismounted. At least two of the 20-odd freshmen who participated appeared satisfied.

“I definitely started harder than I should have, but at the end I definitely wanted to keep going,” said Vicky E. Koski-Karell ’12, drawing agreement from a similarly sweaty Ethan N. Waxman ’12. Both claimed to have ascended to the breathless territory that was Zone 4.

But despite the FDO’s extensive offerings, neither Koski-Karell nor Waxman could recall attending any other non-mandatory opening week events—a trend that was acknowledged by several other freshman elsewhere on campus early this week.

“What I do is I look at the events the night before and then I put them in my computer,” said Tony S. Shen ’12. “Usually I just go to the mandatory ones.”

Shen’s strategy aside, this year’s freshman class is already a noticeable presence on campus.

“I don’t know how all these students found out,” said Martha Creedon, a Systems Office employee and frequent MAC patron, who was one of two non-students who showed up for the cycling introduction. “I thought it would be just a bunch of old farts like us.”

—Staff Writer Christian B. Flow can be reached at cflow@fas.harvard.edu.

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