Trimming orientation falls short of expectations

Re: “The Breakdown: orientation week”

Trimming orientation falls short of expectations

In contrast to the usual full week of Frosh, incoming first-year students found themselves partaking in just three days of orientation this year. This is an unfortunate departure from the initial picture provided to students by the Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU), and it appears to have worked to some students’ detriment.

Two years ago, the ASSU and the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held a joint referendum regarding the future introduction of a fall reading week, the results of which came into effect this academic year. The condition of the implementation of the new break, as stated in the question drafted by then ASSU president Abdullah Shihipar, was “moving the start of orientation week to a few days before Labor Day.” At a UTSU meeting in September 2015, Shihipar said that orientation would not be shortened as a result of the change.

6112 students voted in favour of fall reading week under these terms. Yet what actually transpired was an earlier start to the academic year, which reduced the timeframe new students had to adjust to their surroundings. In a previous interview with The Varsity, Helen Hayes, who organized Victoria College Orientation, expressed that her team would make efforts to include “almost all the events that have been staples of orientation in the past.” At the same time, Bo Wang, a student who attended the orientation, commented that “maybe five days would be better” because this would allow for “more opportunities for fun activities and more chances to meet people and get used to the university.”

With the resumption of the full orientation week next year, students settling into the campus environment will hopefully benefit from a restoration of the status quo.

Mira Chow is a first-year student at Innis College studying Social Sciences.

The Breakdown: orientation week

How the university community welcomed new students this year

The Breakdown: orientation week

Last week, the University of Toronto welcomed thousands of new students across its three campuses, seven colleges, and multiple professional faculties. The Varsity talked to those responsible for organizing orientation events about their respective frosh weeks.

Unlike in years past, 2017’s orientation week consisted of just three days, thanks to the implementation of Fall Reading Week for Arts & Science Students at UTSG, set to take place November 6–10. The reading week was passed in November 2015 after a joint referendum held by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and Arts & Science Student Union (ASSU). A year later, the new reading week was announced.

“I think it’s a pretty significant disruption, I think it’s disappointing,” said UTSU Vice-President Campus Life Stuart Norton of the shortened orientation week. “I know when the referendum was initially posed, the question wasn’t exactly clear. It sort of implied that orientation week would be pushed earlier, but it didn’t imply that the week would be shortened three days, so I know… there’s been concerns… it’s a huge disadvantage… I know it can be a bit of an aggressive transition to be here on Wednesday, cheering and screaming and having a good time, and then showing up for your 9:00 am Con Hall lecture on Thursday morning.”

Norton said that the UTSU has engaged the university in discussions regarding scheduling move-in and orientation a week earlier.

Some divisions around campus, including the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association (FMUA) and Victoria College, continued running orientation activities after Wednesday’s UTSU parade — the event that would usually signify the end of orientation week across all divisions. For example, first-year music students enjoyed a trip to Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament on Saturday.

“We pack our week full with excursions,” said FMUA Orientation organizer Katelyn Katic. “Turnout for these events can vary so much from what you expect and hope for; that being said, we are pleased with the amount of students who had a great time at our events.” Trinity College Orientation Co-Chair Jing Wang told The Varsity that though she thought the week was a success, “with classes cutting into orientation, it affected turnout and made it harder to monitor first years.”

Victoria College Orientation organizer Helen Hayes wrote in an email to The Varsity that, “As a group, our first major projects were brainstorming a theme… and re-working our schedule from five days of programming to three. With the shortened week, we tried our best to include as much programming as possible, and I think we did a really effective job of that! By removing ‘free time’ blocks in the schedule, we were able to include almost all the events that have been staples of orientation in the past.”

Norton noted that everyone on the St. George campus, save a few of the professional faculty students, was dealing with a condensed week, which made fitting the UTSU’s programming into one of the three days a significant undertaking. “It’s sort of a balancing act between not taking up too much time, respecting the different divisions that do their own great programming, but also… not sacrificing the programming that we do,” he said.

Norton and the UTSU Orientation team, led by Alyy Patel and Yolanda Alfaro, decided to condense the UTSU’s clubs fair and carnival into one event, the Clubs Carnival, which took place after the parade on Wednesday. The UTSU held the carnival in place of a concert. According to UTSU President Mathias Memmel, “we can’t afford anyone worth having, so we decided to focus our resources on other events.”

“The UTSU’s Orientation is funded almost entirely through sponsorship, and as such, resources are limited,” he explained.

“I should also note that, at most other universities, the administration helps with the cost of orientation programming. The U of T administration helps with health and safety costs, but we don’t get funding for Orientation as a whole. RSU receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the university in support of their orientation programming.”

The Varsity reached out to the orientation coordinators from Woodsworth College, New College, Innis College, St. Michael’s College, and the Faculty of Kinesiology, but did not receive comment from them by the time of publication.

The Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering told The Varsity that their orientation activities were wrapping up at Hart House Farm in Caledon, and that they would not return in time to give comment.

University College Orientation Coordinator Lindsay Kruitwagen rejected The Varsity’s request for comment.