Committee proposes orientation changes
Bowdoin may implement a new orientation program for first years that would affect the entire community.
The Student Affairs Committee (SAC) is currently forming and refining a proposal for a ten day orientation in lieu of the current four day program with the optional pre-orientation trip. Consequently, first-year students would arrive on campus four days earlier, faculty would return early to meet with their advisees, and sophomores, juniors, and seniors will begin class on a Wednesday, rather than Thursday.
"We've heard a lot of grumbling about the [current] orientation," said Professor Allen Tucker, member of the SAC. The committee addressed concerns about the present orientation program that included the short time period, the two separate arrival dates, inefficiency, and equity.
Currently, orientation is a four-day experience full of speakers, presentations on respect issues, an academic fair, and a meeting with an advisor. If a student wishes, he or she can participate in a pre-orientation trip organized by the Bowdoin Outing Club during the four days prior to orientation.
The SAC is concerned that the packed schedule is too much. Often by the time students begin classes, they are stressed and overwhelmed, Tucker said. Equity is also a great concern for the orientation period, particularly regarding the pre-orientation trips. Participation costs four days and nearly $400. The pre-orientation trips have been highly successful, and demand has greatly increased in the years since they began.
This year, nearly 70 percent of the first-year class participated in one of the many trips offered. However, the written proposal from the Student Affairs Committee said that "many students of color and fall-sport student-athletes choose not to participate. We are concerned that not all students have a shared, common introduction to Bowdoin."
Changes to the current orientation model include lengthening it to a ten-day program. The proposal begins with three days of student orientation, including meeting with an advisor. All students would then leave for their four-day trips.
In addition to the orientation trips that the Bowdoin Outing Club offers, which are mostly outdoors in nature, the SAC is suggesting community service and academic trips, such as a tour of Maine museums.
"The cost of the orientation trip would be absorbed by the college," Tucker said. "I don't think it would go up $375 on the tuition."
Students would then return for another three days of orientation activities. "We don't want to upset current successful trips," Tucker said. "We want to broaden [the program] rather than tear it apart."
The new plan makes for a more leisurely agenda, allows students to be introduced to Bowdoin before they head out on the orientation trip, and lets all students participate in a trip. It also allows all students to attend their Monday-Wednesday classes the first week, rather than just their Tuesday-Thursday classes.
The SAC recently presented the new orientation proposal to the faculty and to the Bowdoin Student Government. "I think it's fair to say that there is strong support among faculty and students for a shared introductory experience," Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster said. "[But] there is disagreement about what this experience should be and how long it should last."
Several faculty members have expressed concern regarding the schedule, which requires advisors to meet with first years before they leave for their orientation trips. "Some faculty, myself included...worried that it would make for a lengthy orientation program...necessitating that faculty cut short their research to come back early and advise first years," Professor Allen Wells said.
Students also have concerns, including the fact that first years would have to return four days earlier, losing four days of possible income from summer jobs. There is also student concern about the length and how the group dynamics of the pre-orientation trips would change if they are made mandatory.
Now that the SAC has presented the proposal and received feedback from the faculty and the Bowdoin Student Government, it plans on approaching students and the Bowdoin community. "We are probably going to have a town hall sometime during the spring," said SAC member Graham Jones '04. "[The SAC] meets every two a half weeks, and we have discussed and developed this topic every time we've met since the fall."
The plan is not yet concrete, and the SAC is using criticism to further refine the plan. "Based on the feedback we have received to date, I think we will look at how we might boil additional time out of the program so that program is less than ten days in duration," Foster said. "No decisions have been made and the earliest we would even consider adopting such a model would be the Fall of 2005" for the class of 2009.
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