An Insider’s Look At Customs Week

Peer Awareness Facilitator Jacob Lowy ’14 describes his experience at Customs Week, the introduction to Haverford’s first-year orientation program.

What a week it has been! I am a Peer Awareness Facilitator (PAF) for the class of 2015, and last Saturday (the 20th), I joined with other members of the Customs Teams on campus in order to prepare for the influx of first-years. We had four days to decorate our apartments and residence halls, and review some of the training we had undergone for our respective roles. Then, on Wednesday, the new students arrived!
Before I continue, a brief explanation of Customs is in order. Customs is Haverford’s year-long first-year orientation program that starts five days before classes. First-years live in customs groups of 12 to 18 people in Barclay, Gummere and the Haverford College Apartments. Eight upper classmen are assigned to each customs group, and each fulfills a different role for the first-years. Each customs group generally has two Customs People (CPs), one Upper Classmen Advisor (UCA), two Peer Awareness Facilitators (PAFs), two Honor Code Orienteers (HCOs) and one Ambassador of Multicultural Awareness (AMA). (It’s a lot of acronyms, I know!)
CPs are essentially residence advisors and live on the hall with first-years to provide support and help them adapt to their new environments. UCAs also live on the hall and help the new students pick out classes and understand the different academic processes that they might encounter while at Haverford. PAFs are off the hall resources who hold 10 discussions throughout the year on different social issues—race, gender, sexuality, class, drugs/alcohol—that the first-years might encounter. HCOs work to help first-years understand the nuances of the honor code through discussions of Honor Council trial abstracts and hypothetical situations of confrontation. AMAs serve to help new students discover the many different multicultural groups on campus, as well as help them to understand complicated social issues such as stereotyping.
Customs Week is one of the most memorable weeks of college for Haverford students. It is a time for having new experiences and making new friends. Some of the highlights include Dorm Olympics (a wet one this year thanks to Hurricane Irene), a scavenger hunt across campus, a “trust walk,” a demonstration by a hypnotist, performances by Haverford’s sketch comedy and improv groups (the Throng and the Lighted Fools) and a concert by the many Ford a cappella groups.
Classes started Monday, and we have all been busy figuring out our schedules. But just because classes have begun, doesn’t mean customs is over! I’m really excited to spend the rest of the year working with my first-years, and helping them to adjust to their new life here at Haverford.
– Jacob Lowy ’14

All pictures by Liz Crooks ’12