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Freshmen Learn about Diversity at 'Ba Fa Ba Fa'

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Editor in Chief

The "surprise"in the Hitchhiker's Guide yesterday turned out to be "Ba Fa Ba Fa,"an interactive cultural diversity program.

After attending a catered dinner at the Barbeque Pits, freshmen were herded into the athletic facilities by their orientation leaders to participate in the game.

The goal of Ba Fa Ba Fa was to introduce students to what it was like to be from a different culture or to be in a strange place, a situation not unlike the one faced by some of the current freshmen, said Oriana C. Hunter '99, an Orientation leader.

Once the freshmen were grouped into sets of about 40, they were again separated into two groups, the alphas and the betas.

Both groups attempted to undertake trading such that individual members would gain a set of cards. Each group was taught the "culture"of the group and the language that they should use.

The alpha society, for example, was a patriarchal society where members frequently discussed each other's paternal relatives and where women would only approach women. Members of the alpha society spoke english.

On the other hand, the beta society used a different language. They were a utilitarian culture, and communicated using hand language and a simple language using the members' last names.

Discussion reveals other culture

Members of each group were not allowed to share their group's language with others. Instead, the group was expected to learn the language of the other side, and eventually to trade cards with it.

"Whatever they're doing, you want to do,"Hunter said.

Initially, members sent over "observers"to look at the language and culture of the other side and to report to the group.

Next, the groups sent over a team of "visitors"to actually interact with the group.The language barriers initially proved difficult. "They're a bad influence, they don't want to play with us,"said Grace Ng '02 after being shunned by the opposite group.

Finally, the groups merged and attempted to conduct commerce across the groups.

Towards the end, many freshmen appeared to be taking the event very seriously. "People get in the mindset of the group they're in,"said Matt McGann '00, the orientation logistics coordinator.

Asubstantial fraction of the freshmen, however, had decided to walk away or leave the event. "Don't you want to play the game?" yelled one exasperated orientation leader as the event was beginning.

The event was included as a surprise in the Hitchhiker's Guide because it is a "very difficult thing to explain succinctly,"McGann added.