Congratulations, incoming Anteaters, and welcome to UC Irvine! As you can probably anticipate, the best way to begin your love affair with UCI is at SPOP, the “mandatory” Student/Parent Orientation Program. But we hope that you’ll realize that it’s okay to not like SPOP; in fact, it’s okay to hate it because, when you really think about it, SPOP has very little to do with what UCI is about.

Don’t get us wrong —  it’s nice to have an orientation program geared toward incoming students to help orient them to the campus. However, we feel that SPOP needs a revamp to actually fulfill the purpose it is attempting to serve.

Want to get involved with ASUCI or learn more about UCI Athletics? Or how about the shows that happen at the School of the Arts? Or clubs or resource centers or alternative media? Good luck searching for all of that on your own online because you won’t hear much about those things at SPOP.

It’s common to hear from those who’ve gone through SPOP that they didn’t really learn much about UCI while they were there. It feels as if, the majority of the time, SPOP staffers are trying really hard to make you love UCI —  which is great, except that if you’re attending SPOP, that means you’re attending UCI. You’ll learn to love it over a period of time and for your own reasons that you’ll discover once the quarter — and your real college experience — begins. SPOP doesn’t feel like an introduction to college, it feels like an extension of petty high school cliques and a popularity contest to be one of the “favorite” SPOPers in your hall.

To its credit, SPOP has made significant changes in the past four years: the three-day program is now down to a two-day one, though it would still be nice to have a one-day option (because all of the important information can really be given in a day); there are also more information sessions packed into the current schedule, though if it is anything like it was in the past, wandering SPOPers are left to find the location of these sessions on their own with the help of very unhelpful campus maps.

Any way you look at it, SPOP feels like that awkward middle school dance where everyone is trying to look “TFC” for the event, but are secretly dying inside to be accepted and liked. SPOPers are forced to play awkward icebreakers that probe people to answer uncomfortable questions about their sex lives and party personae (that they may or may not have but will pretend like they do in order to “fit in”).

All those lessons you learned about not conforming and not succumbing to peer pressure in high school? Gone and out the window because you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of people who will have forgotten those lessons too.

And it’s not like you have the option to not participate either, or you’ll be “that kid,” the one who is considered “socially awkward.” But it’s not that you’re “socially awkward.” You just don’t want to play the stupid stick game, and we don’t blame you. Nor do we blame you for not wanting to spill your guts to a dorm full of strangers you will probably never encounter again. Don’t feel pressured to make your “BFFs” at SPOP because the possibility that you’ll actually have class or live in the same dorming community as your SPOP hallmates is very slim.

The basic point: you’re not going to hate college just because you don’t “sp-love” SPOP. If you enjoy it, good for you, but keep yourself open to all of the amazing things UCI has to offer when the year begins. However, we’re not fans and, from what we’ve gathered, SPOP could be more useful with more information and interesting sights and sounds of the campus than all of those “fun” games in front of Cha, a lame dance in the Social Science plaza (that may or may not be in the schedule anymore, the SPOP staffers we’ve asked haven’t been able to confirm that for us yet —  seriously, guys, what do you spend this quarter training for if you don’t even know your schedule yet?) and forced all-nighters (at least that’s what most of us took away from the three-day SPOP back in the day).

Sure, we’re just a very, very small percentage of this 20,000-plus campus, so call us haters since SPOP didn’t “change our lives,” but we’re going to take a wild guess and say we aren’t the only ones.

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