President Fitts welcomes new students in his first convocation

Rachel Schor, Contributing Reporter

President Michael Fitts made his first official address to the class of 2018 during the annual president’s convocation for new students at McAlister Auditorium Saturday.

As the freshmen filed in, each was given a Tulane T-shirt. When seated, the lights were turned off and students were instructed to put the shirts on. When the lights came back on, more than 1600 students had become one large green sea.

Seven students, each carrying gonfalons, entered the auditorium to begin the ceremony. The shield-emblazoned banners each represent a different school inside Tulane University. Then, in traditional New Orleans style, Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Jazz Band presented the Platform Party.

J. Davidson “Dusty” Porter, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, then welcomed the class of 2018. He began his speech by telling students that he too was also new. He went on to tell them about his experience being dropped off at college 33 years ago by his parents. He shared with the class the advice his father had given him. As Porter echoed his father’s advice, he added a piece of his own. 

“’Make good decisions.’… Make your time at Tulane your own experience… engage with the city of New Orleans, engage in your residential community and engage with your faculty… and take advantage of the diversity around you at Tulane,” Porter said.

After Porter spoke, Provost Michael Bernstein briefly introduced each member of the Platform Party. After these introductions, James MacLaren, dean of Newcomb-Tulane College, told the class a little more about themselves. He shared many interesting facts, including that many students excelled in both their high school classes and standardized test scores.

“There are 19 Matthews and 29 Sarahs in the entering class… a couple of you got perfect scores on your ACT and almost two-thirds of you ranked in the top 10 percent of your high school graduating classes…and about 130 of you never received less than an A in high school,” MacLaren said.

He continued on to talk about the diversity in the class, and got a very loud response when he made a joke about the variety of places that international students were from.

“Students in this class come from countries such as: Nicaragua, Panama, China, Canada, Vietnam, Spain, Costa Rica, Turkey, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, India, Honduras, Germany, my favorite, the United Kingdom, and Ethiopia,” MacLaren said. “So my advice to you is to get to know these students because they seem like really great spring break locations.”

He finished his speech with a nod to his daughter, an incoming freshman, and then officially introduced the class of 2018 to the president. President Fitts explained to the students that Tulane was a family and that they were the newest members, himself included. 

“We are in the same boat,” Fitts said. “I am also a freshman at Tulane, a freshman president… like you, I am unbelievably excited by this institution and inspired by all the opportunities that await us here.”

He continued on to make both comical statements (like encouraging the class not to gain the “Fitts 40”) and serious remarks. He also challenged the freshman class to a photo contest, in which the winners would receive a dinner for them and two of their friends at Commander’s Palace. 

Freshman Carly Roitz said that convocation was a valuable experience.

“It was pretty cool,” Roitz said. “Especially the part where they made us put on the shirts. It was cool seeing everyone wearing the same thing.”

Convocation was closed with the freshman class filing out, led by Michael White’s band. They each touched the Tulane Victory Bell, a tradition of initiation, and processed through a path of parents, coming out an official Tulanian.