Opinion: Rethinking Family Weekend

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Family Weekend is a four-day period during which the most affluent of CU’s parents purchase their transportation to Boulder, book their overpriced hotel rooms, attend CU sponsored events and activities, watch football and spend time with their kids. Unfortunately, the fact is that Family Weekend is expensive and the city of Boulder simply doesn’t have enough space to include all families even if everyone could afford the weekend’s festivities. Thus, it is inevitable that many a college freshman be excluded from the activities.

It is ironic that a weekend centered around the inclusion of family members in a student’s life on campus will result in the exclusion of so many CU students. It is easy to forget the diversity of family styles represented in the CU community. As a result, these unique situations are overlooked.

When talking with other students, I was surprised by the number of students whose families couldn’t come for a variety of reasons. Many said the trip would be too expensive or their parents couldn’t get any time off work. These are the expected answers. What shocked me was the number of students without parents to bring. You see, around campus we’ve come to use the terms “Family Weekend” and “Parent’s Weekend” interchangeably. It may seem like a minor difference but this switch completely alters the meaning of the weekend. In doing so, we forget the CU students alienated from their parents or raised by extended family members, family friends, foster parents, etc. Under these categories fall more students than one might expect. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of children growing up in a “traditional” household (one home with heterosexual parents who’ve been married only once) accounts for less than 50 percent of American children. Given these statistics, it’s unrealistic to expect the majority of our students to have a worry-free time inviting their parents to campus for the weekend.

So what does the weekend hold for students whose families can’t make it? Life will go on, as it tends to. But seeing friends’ reunions with parents and spending time alone because your buddies are catching up with family can take an emotional toll on the soloist.

Now, for those parents who are available for the weekend, pulling together a family trip like this is not cheap. I can tell you from my family’s move-in week experience, the city of Boulder simply can’t support the families of around 6,000 non-local freshman. As a result, hotel prices skyrocket. Take the Best Western Plus Boulder Inn for example. If I were to book a room for two for Family Weekend, it would cost me $302 per night. Just one week later, that same room would cost me only $199 per night. That’s a 51 percent markup! Now let’s pretend you’re an out-of-state-er, like myself, coming from CU’s second most popular home state, California. The average nonstop airfare between LAX and DIA costs around $172. With the cost of dining out, car rentals, on campus parking and the “Family and Guest Packages that CU sells, you’re looking at several thousand dollars for one family to visit.

Cost concerns aside, having so many drivers unfamiliar with the area in town also poses safety concerns for Boulder’s residents. Out of town parents come here and are not used to driving around pedestrians or cyclists with the added distractions of looking out for street signs and scarce parking. This is a recipe for disaster. According to the personal finance site The Balance, the fourth most common cause of human-error car accidents is the driver being unfamiliar with the area and not knowing the traffic laws. While this statistic shouldn’t prevent your parents from visiting, it may be an indication that perhaps having thousands of out-of-area drivers cruising around a college town at once isn’t the greatest idea. For your own safety, I suggest abandoning the bike for the weekend and being extra cautious around streets when on foot.

It’s time we reevaluate how we think about Family Weekend. It’s important for the school to consider the inconveniences and safety concerns it’s creating by hosting so many visitors at once. We also need to stop making the assumption that all CU students have had an ideal upbringing under two parents with the means and desire to visit for the weekend. Instead, we should embrace the diversity of our student body and think about how we can include the unique backgrounds it offers.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Georgia Knoles at georgia.knoles@colorado.edu.

Georgia Knoles

Georgia is a sophomore studying journalism, French and Spanish at CU Boulder. She is the General News Editor for the CU Independent and hails from the Great Pacific Northwest.

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