Re: Orientation Week
To the Editor:
As a recent graduate who still has many friends involved in Western's Orientation Week, I attended last week's closing ceremonies on University College Hill to see how things were going this year. I was greatly dismayed by the announcement that Western's administration, short-sighted as always, was planning to deal the deathblow to Orientation by pushing move-in day to the day before classes start. Despite the heartwarming defiance by the Sophs and the Frosh, we all know how little student opinion matters to the powers that be on this issue.
In 1996, the administration of this university wanted to shorten Orientation by adding a couple of class days to the week, claiming that this would achieve a better balance between academics and social life. On the surface this seemed to be a reasonable request. After all, people go to Western to be students and should have some introduction to academic life before starting school in earnest.
In reality, the administration was trying to find a band-aid solution to the university's mediocre academic image and exert more control over Orientation through the creation of the Orientation Governance Board.
First-year students who attended those classes during Orientation, only to receive their course syllabus and be sent home after a few minutes, were not well-served by these changes because they did not offer any new academic programming of value. We protested the proposed changes that also included a two-year probationary period, but students were forced to accept the changes under the threat of losing Orientation entirely.
The sleeping giant of legal liability was awakened in 1997 (probably due to the Disorientation Week road trip to Waterloo during a snowstorm), and the admin cracked down on the students again this time banning all off-campus bus trips during O-week. This left last year's Frosh with the option of trying to herd into The Spoke or the Wave (along with 5,000 other people), attending events in unsuitable residence facilities or splintering off into little groups and going to off campus locations (did admin think this was safer than a supervised bus trip to an off campus bar with Sophs to look after them?).
Enter 1998, with the admin's latest blunder being a great underestimation of demand for residence beds and the subsequent reduction of residence Sophs by as much as two-thirds in some buildings. This caused many people who would have liked to have stayed in rez and contribute to the Orientation program to give up all hope of getting back in and they sought off campus housing instead. On a positive note, the creation of faculty Sophs appeared to be a good idea as a way to improve the academic portion of O-week.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that all groups involved in Orientation accepted these changes handed down over the past three years and have worked in good faith to respect the new rules it has not been enough for the administration. Now they want to end their little charade of "improving" Orientation by killing it altogether.
It is no secret that the admin has used Orientation Week as a scapegoat to cover its own shortcomings in running this university. I heard on the radio last year that Western was attributing its increased number of applicants to the "cleaning up" and shortening of Orientation, a laughable conclusion.
Western seems more concerned with making superficial changes in a PR effort to improve their Maclean's rankings than in dealing with issues that are material to the quality of education at this school. Maybe they should look at their ridiculous class sizes or the quality of the faculty (some of whom care more about research grants than their students), before blaming Western's academic image on a week of social events intended to make newcomers to campus feel welcome and adjusted before the crunch begins.
As an out-of-province student who knew no one coming here, O-week was incredibly important in making Western feel like home. I can't imagine anyone wanting to deny that to next year's Frosh. Last year, various student groups tried to appeal to alumni who returned for homecoming to use their considerable influence to pressure the admin into saving O-Week and I hope they do so again this year.
Speaking as an alumnus now, the university will never see a penny of donation money from me if it destroys this program that meant so much to me while I was a student.
Saugeen Soph '95-'98