Gain campus harmony, game-free
Trust and candor are better than scavenger hunts.
We don't normally think of college students and scavenger hunts together. Like capture the flag, scavenger hunts seem more suited for preteens. But in recent years scavenger hunts have become part of fall orientation for schools such as Amherst and Oberlin.
I discovered this disturbing news after I learned that the students in my first-year college writing class were going on a scavenger hunt as part of their orientation. And theirs was mandatory.
Behind the reason for these hunts lies a major achievement: the growing diversity of college student bodies. But as more colleges have reached beyond the white middle class in recruiting students, they have found that tensions on their campus have also grown. Students are continually sorting themselves out along lines – race, class, religion, ethnicity – that colleges would rightly like to play down.
The scavenger hunt is used in part, to break down this self-segregation and the often tense divisions that come with it.
In the 1990s, colleges dealt with those issues a bit differently. Speech codes and required reading on race, diversity, and citizenship for incoming first-year students became widespread. The peak of what might in retrospect be called the bonding movement came with the proliferation of sensitivity groups, some voluntary, some required.
Under the direction of a trainer (usually a psychologist or social worker) groups of diverse students were put through exercises designed to reveal their hidden prejudices.