The Review Committee on Orientation (RCO), a broad group charged with evaluating every major aspect of freshman orientation, publicly released its final recommendations yesterday after nearly a year of work.
The RCO stopped short of suggesting a genuine overhaul of orientation. The biggest and most popular orientation events like Residence Exploration (REX) and Freshman Pre-Orientation Programs (FPOPs) are not going to be cut, though they may see modifications. Other elements of orientation programming — such as Advanced Standing Examinations, FSILG (fraternity, sorority, and independent living group) recruitment, and financing — were recommended for further committee-based review.
FPOPs and REX
Two cornerstone orientation programs — FPOPs and REX — were seen as strong, high-satisfaction events by the RCO, which gathered data through a series of freshman surveys, interviews, and public forums. “In order to strengthen an already strong program,” RCO recommended that all FPOPs have a common end date, engage students throughout the day and evening, and introduce students to MIT’s various support resources. All of those recommendations will be implemented for orientation this year, according to a press release from the MIT News Office.
Another recommendation — also confirmed to be in force this year — requires FPOP students who stay on campus to pay a housing fee (in the past, FPOP students lived in dorms free-of-charge, though some paid fees for their specific programs). It is not clear how large the fee will be, and DSL/DUE spokespeople could not be reached as of yesterday evening.
REX will continue, but the RCO said that “students do not participate in REX because they want to transfer to another residence, and high levels of participation in REX does not make the adjustment lottery decision easier.” MIT should “rearticulate that [REX’s] primary purpose is to welcome first-year students to the Institute and to the residential community,” according to the News Office release.
In that vein, the RCO recommended that REX become a time for “community building and sustaining diverse dormitory cultures,” and that REX events conflict less with other orientation activities. Additionally, the RCO suggested that REX events be scheduled at any point during orientation, not necessarily limited to before the housing adjustment lottery.
The report indicated that the issue of fraternity, sorority, and independent living group recruitment was the RCO’s most contentious. In general, FSILG-affiliated student committee members advocated for the status quo — recruitment following orientation — while faculty thought recruitment might be too early and too fast. RCO recommended forming another group to specifically evaluate the timing of Recruitment and potential “financial and social implications” of moving Rush/Recruitment to a later time.
Separate from the timing of recruitment, RCO recommended that FSILGs be allowed to participate in orientation events like the Activities Midway. “Because of the important and positive role [FSILGs] play on campus, we can see no reason for a blanket ban against their participation in orientation and recommend that all such bans be lifted.”
Other, smaller orientation programs may see more significant alterations, and the MIT News Office confirmed in a release yesterday that some of these recommendations will be implemented for orientation this year. City Days, for instance, will be replaced by a bigger community service event during the academic year. And the “Tuesday night event” held during Orientation week will be replaced by “dorm-wide community building activities.”
RCO also recommended that “an in-depth cost accounting study” of orientation be conducted. Costs for regular orientation programming have been historically covered by the Institute, and REX alone costs upwards of $600,000. RCO recommended that MIT charge an “orientation fee” to cover orientation programming, housing, and meal costs, though this recommendation has been classified as “long-term” and is not confirmed for implementation this year.
RCO was formed in March 2011 and met for the final time on Jan. 24. Their report was presented to Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel E. Hastings PhD ’80 and Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo in mid-February.
RCO is a 16-member committee — five faculty (including three housemasters), five administrators (most from DUE or DSL), and six students (see sidebar).