As my freshman year wraps up, I’ve taken time to reflect on different aspects of my year and think about what advice I would give to incoming Manhattan College freshmen.
One facet of my life here that I’ve reflected on has been the Arches program; as I’ve thought about it, I’ve come to realize I would not over-enthusiastically recommend it to incoming freshmen.
I was a nervous wreck when it came to all aspects of the impending doom of college, so being in Arches allowed me a few extra days to get accustomed to the campus and to move in on a less hectic day. I got paired with a great roommate who has become a great friend; having her as the first person I got to know on campus was the best thing I got out of Arches.
To me, that’s where the benefits of the Arches program ends.
The program is advertised as creating “community among freshmen Jaspers” yet advertisements diverge from personal experience. While there might be community among members in Arches, “Arches” turns into a defining and dividing identity label between Arches students and Non-Arches students.
So maybe there’s somewhat of a divide between students in Arches and not in Arches, but surely there’s a strong sense of community within the program?
In Arches, friend groups quickly form between some and yet, there are always students who are left out of this; while those friend groups that formed fast may change fast, the students left out of these initial interim friendships may feel shortchanged by what the school advertised to them.
Not everyone is suited to be anyone’s best friend, but even in those first few days, everyone wants at least one person to smile at them or sit with them at a meal, but not everyone in Arches gets that.
I struggled to make friends at first but many of the good friends I’ve come to make are also in the Arches program; though this seems to invalidate my previous point, it actually shows how large the program is.
There’s four floors of residents and eight or nine Arches classes each semester. The program boasts its ability to foster community between Jaspers but with a program so large, it’s hard to build the tight-knit community the program claims.
The size of the program also makes it harder for students in the program to meet all the other students in the program. For students (like me) who initially struggled with friendships, it wasn’t because they didn’t fit in, it’s because they hadn’t met their people yet.
While there is a service requirement expected of each class, the standard is not quite standard. Some students have to complete six to ten hours of service on their own, whereas other classes complete one to two hours; some students in the same class complete different amounts of service hours.
For the students who were excited for the service aspect of the Arches program, this uneven distribution of work and expectations can be a let down.
The program is advertised for its city trips, friendship building, service-based learning, and as a great way to get into the “best” dorm on campus. Arches’ advertising at open house and accepted students days should be about the academic program, rather than it being a great way to get into the newest dorm on campus.
This notion that Lee Hall is the “best” dorm is another dividing aspect of Arches vs. Non-Arches students. While Lee is currently the newest dorm the campus has, it is not necessarily the “best” being that each dorm on campus has its own unique atmosphere.
The focus of Arches should not be the dorm building or the trips into the city, but rather it should be about students doing valuable community service and having interesting educational experiences.
If the program refocuses itself on stimulating classes, engaging educational experiences and valuable community service projects, the students signing up for the program would be doing so with a vested interest in the program’s key elements. Right now, what should be the key focus of Arches is treated as secondary.
The fundamental core ideas of the Arches program are great but I think in the years that have passed since its inaugural year, those core ideas have been lost.
I ultimately do not regret my decision to be part of Arches but I feel I had high hopes that were not met because of how Arches was advertised to me. Whether changes in the program or advertising are made or not is not up to me, but from the inside looking out, from the present looking to the past and to the future, I believe that renovations of some kind would lead to positive growth of the program.