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U of T tri-campus orientations to be held primarily online for second year in a row

UTSU, UTMSU, SCSU plan activities meant to promote accessibility, safety
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Students participating in in-person orientation prior to the pandemic. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
Students participating in in-person orientation prior to the pandemic. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

While U of T’s student unions will be holding certain aspects of orientation in person due to relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario, most orientation programming this year will remain online to accommodate students who can’t attend in person. 

In interviews with The Varsity, student unions expressed that they are prioritizing creating strong relationships between incoming students and their campuses, and are planning to create these relationships, in part, through virtual activities. 

Each campus union also has its own plans for introducing students to resources and preparing them for their first year of university. 

Acquainting students with campus resources at UTSG

In an email to The Varsity, Maria Lin, vice-president student life of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), wrote that UTSG’s 2021 orientation would mainly be held virtually, with one in-person event — an in-person clubs fair. The clubs fair will introduce students to clubs and activities which might be of interest to them. 

Among the activities offered at UTSG’s 2021 orientation is a virtual tour of the Student Commons, a student-run centre originally approved for construction by students in 2007, which will begin a phased opening while construction finishes in the fall. The UTSU will run tours of the Student Commons meant to introduce students to UTSU services.

Lin wrote that although the orientation planning parameters set out by the UTSU indicated to her that the union could run in-person orientation while keeping students safe, she decided to keep orientation primarily virtual to accommodate students who may be unable to come to campus for pandemic-related reasons. 

“From last year’s frosh, I have learned the importance of creating an interactive environment to foster a strong sense of community,” wrote Lin. 

To create this environment, the UTSU’s orientation will feature a livestreamed event to introduce attendees to UTSG. Updated from 2020, the livestream will now include “more interactive elements,” and will focus on talks from professors and alumni rather than performances from other artists. Attendees will also be provided a virtual frosh kit. 

Building campus spirit at UTSC

From September 1–4, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) will hold UTSC’s orientation SHINE 2021. 

In an interview with The Varsity, SCSU Vice-President Campus Life TJ Ho explained that SHINE would be primarily virtual to accommodate UTSC’s international students, many of whom may have trouble traveling to campus. 

Despite the virtual nature of orientation, in-person programming will be offered on September 3 and 4, during which the orientation’s main event — a concert with “one huge artist [the SCSU] can’t disclose right now” and many local artists — will be held in person and streamed online.

SHINE will also include a campus tour, an attendee-led talent show, programming to prepare attendees for university life, and a virtual magic show. Attendees will receive a ‘swag bag’ which will contain UTSC-branded and SCSU-branded merchandise.

The SCSU intends to provide more icebreaker-based events than it did in 2020. Many of these events entail placing students in randomized virtual groups to introduce themselves and discuss topics provided to them through prompts.

Preparing students for academic success at UTM

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) will hold UTM’s orientation, CYBER 2021, from August 30 to September 3 with both in-person and virtual components. 

The orientation offers a virtual package that will provide access to its virtual events. A hybrid package will provide students access to the orientation’s virtual programming and potential in-person events from August 30 to September 3, with some additional programming on September 4.

CYBER 2021 will also include a “UTMSU Survival Guide,” which provides attendees with information on campus resources and student success tips. An Academic Societies Seminar will introduce first-year students to student leaders in their aspiring programs who will guide them about methods for success in their respective programs. 

The orientation will also offer an escape room, a talent show led by UTM students and clubs, and an in-person carnival.

The UTMSU intends to promote student interaction by discouraging what UTMSU President Mitra Yakubi referred to as “Zooming Out.” 

Reflecting on last year’s orientation, Yakubi wrote that the UTMSU is “more cognizant that no one wants to spend hours on end behind a screen.”

“We have reduced the number of back to back events and long days to be more cognizant of ‘Zooming Out’ and [we are] implementing more activities for people to get to know each other on a deeper level,” wrote Yakubi.