In response to strong student opposition to proposed changes to the Orientation 2011 schedule, administration and student government officials announced last week that no significant scheduling changes would be seen this year. Freshman Pre-Orientation Programs (FPOPs) and International Orientation events will be changing, but in ways that minimize their impact on orientation programming like REX.
In last week’s e-mail addressed to MIT undergraduates, written to address a “largely negative” student reaction to proposed Orientation changes, students learned that Orientation would mostly stay the same. “REX will not be shortened, and overlap between REX and other programming will not be substantially increased from last year,” wrote Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel E. Hastings PhD ’80, Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo, UA President Vrajesh Y. Modi ’11 and DormCon President Christina R. Johnson ’11 in the letter.
Julie B. Norman, director of the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP), confirmed that FPOPs this year will be 4–5 days long — with the exception of Architecture and Urban Planning. This is different from previous years, when FPOPs were anywhere from 2–5 days long. This year, FPOPs will also all start on the same day, and all FPOPs will finish by the Friday before Orientation week, to ensure that students are free for REX activities. According to Modi, CityDays will remain on Friday, as it was in 2010.
International Orientation will be moved forward to Tuesday and Wednesday mornings of Orientation, which is the only change that will directly affect Orientation this year. According to last week’s e-mail, international students who wish to take Advanced Standing Exams on those will be accommodated by the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming.
Johnson felt that strong student opposition convinced members of the administration to preserve last year’s orientation schedule.
“Seeing such a unified and diplomatic front from the leaders of the dorms allowed the administration to understand our issues with the shortening of REX specifically,” wrote Johnson in an e-mail, referencing an open letter from incoming and outgoing dorm presidents addressed to Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 (http://tech.mit.edu/V131/N1/presidents.html).
Norman confirmed that next year’s orientation schedule has been finalized. She noted that the administration listened to student input to make its final decision.
“We value student position and opinion. We heard the students’ response to possibilities of shortening orientation, and responded accordingly,” said Norman.
Deans Hastings and Colombo will be forming a committee this spring to review orientation programs for beyond this year, according to the campus-wide e-mail. The committee will be comprised of students, faculty, and staff, with student representatives appointed through the UA nominations process.
The student reaction to the proposed changes began at a Jan. 25 emergency UA meeting, where Elizabeth C. Young and Norman, associate dean and director of UAAP, respectively, proposed to delay the official start of orientation events by two days, not requiring freshmen to arrive on campus until Monday afternoon of Orientation week. Many students expressed deep concern that freshmen would have insufficient time to take advantage of REX events, which start on Saturday and conclude on Tuesday evening. FPOPs were also a point of contention — under the proposed orientation scheme, most FPOPs would be extended from 2–5 days in length to 4–5 days and conclude on Sunday or Monday morning, causing concern that FPOPs would potentially conflict with REX events.