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Orientation 1998 to Be Finalized as Student Groups are Consulted

By Zareena Hussain
Contributing Editor

Last year's debates over alcohol, housing, and Residence and Orientation Week may be a distant memory to some, but work continues on changing to the existing system.

Within the next few weeks major changes to R/O will be finalized by a committee composed of concerned faculty, deans, and administrators, said Dean for Undergraduate Curriculum Kip V. Hodges PhD '82. This committee will be responsible for formulating what is in essence "a bill of rights" to set the framework for planning the upcoming changes, Hodges said.

In the coming weeks Hodges will meet with various student leaders representing dormitories, fraternities and independent living groups to present the committee's decisions about R/O. "At this point, I have not brought students in the process," Hodges said.

However, the discussion is still ongoing. "The changes are not yet clear," Hodges said, "I'm telling students everything I know."

While the bulk of changes to R/O will be finalized in the coming weeks, some changes have already been made.

R/O 1998 will be renamed Orientation 1998 to reflect a greater emphasis on introducing freshmen to the Institute rather than on residence selection during a student's first week on campus. Project Move Off Your Assumptions will still exist, but in a different format. MOYAleaders will now have to be associate advisors in order to participate, said Elizabeth Cogliano, coordinator of student programs.

In addition, the timetables for freshmen arrival next year will not be markedly different from those used in previous years. At most, students might arrive on a Wednesday evening as opposed to Thursday afternoon, Hodges said. The Interfraternity Council President's Council previously recommended that Orientation begin on Monday with an academic component taking place before the beginning of rush on a Friday.

Plans are also already in the works to enact the recommendations of the O/R committee to offer freshmen a more informative guide giving objective information about all residences, Hodges said.

Student input still to be included

For now the major focus is on defining larger goals such as the desire to make R/O a less stressful experience for students, to provide better information about residences and academic opportunities and to foster the feeling among students that they are part of a greater community, Hodges said.

After these larger goals are defined students will be involved in their implementation, Hodges said.

While students will be involved in offering input in the decision-making process, their role in official decision making is likely to be minimal early in the process. Students will be more involved working out the details of implementing proposals, he said.

"We [faculty and deans] have to ask ourselves the hard questions of what we want our students to get out of orientation," Hodges said. "We had an unfortunate time with this whole freshmen on campus issue," he said. "The sense I felt very strongly was us against them,'" he said. Hodges will attempt to contact leaders of student government and FSILGs this term in order to avoid the acrimony that accompanied some of the open forums of last term.

Dormitory Council President Ashesh P. Shah '98 objected to the lack of student input at this stage, saying that it made it far more difficult to change in the future. "When you have a grass-roots process people can [later] come together and make the changes that need to be made."

A more "top-down" process can lead to problems. "A lot of people feel they get the runaround when they try to change it," he said. "Unless you can get one of the bigwigs to sign on, who's to say that you can change it," he added.

"I'm glad they're forming committees with student input but I think they need to take it to a higher level," he said.

Many student leaders still remain largely in the dark about proposed changes, however, and are not sure of the extent to which decisions have been made.

"The administration knows and sometime this week we are going to find out," said Interfraternity Council President Duane H. Dreger '99. "It is just sort of this cloud hanging out there: waiting to see what [the changes] will be, Dreger said.

One major concern is the lack of separation between residence selection and academic orientation, Dreger said. For example, shortly after students choose a residence they must quickly move to academic and administrative concerns, he said. As a result, both aspects of orientation are compromised by the conflict between residence and orientation.

Other groups have also been working to change R/O. "[Independent Living Groups] are planning to put out their own rush guide" said Christopher D. Beland '00 a president of Fenway House.

In addition, ILGs may formalize the current consortium of ILGs and turn it into an official organization, he said. Beland said that he wasn't "expecting very many problems" with the work being done by the committees examining orientation.

"Everything is in the details and we will be watching those very closely," he added.

Dan McGuire contributed to the reporting of this story.