Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
In a meeting that re-evaluated the goals of freshman orientation, the deans have made a decision to eliminate the pre-orientation backpacking trip, in addition to changing the composition of the CA groups and making the mailings accessible online.
The deans met for a session about orientation earlier this spring.
“We were thinking about ‘What are the goals of orientation?’ ‘What are the activities we have?’ and ‘What things could be done better online?’” Dean Myrt Westphal said.
They also discussed activities that happened before orientation.
“The backpacking trip was started with the idea that every student would have the opportunity to have a pre-orientation experience,” Westphal said. Unfortunately, some students had to be rejected from the program over subsequent years.
Offering every incoming freshman a pre-orientation experience—backpacking or otherwise—would require a “very large commitment” on the College’s behalf.
“Schools who have that kind of experience have a whole office to organize and run those things. We just don’t have the people power at present,” Westphal said.
The summer Tri-College Institute is also being re-evaluated, though decisions about it are still tentative.
The CA groups will also change composition, in an ongoing attempt to make the orientation experience more relevant to students’ later life at the College.
“Instead of being [made up of] people from all across campus, about half of them would be people from your dorm, and half of them people from another dorm. You would have some continuity with the people in your CA group that was ongoing,” Westphal said.
Last year’s Orientation Committee had particularly focused on the CA leaders.
“We gave them more flexibility and simply more activities. We tried to increase the cohesive nature of those groups,” said Doug Gilchrist-Scott, co-chair of the 2007 committee.
The last definite change to next year’s orientation does not specifically involve student life, but technology. Dean Garikai Campbell is currently reviewing all of the mailings that students receive over the summer.
“You will submit a lot of those forms…online. When you put in your ID number or your name or something, all kinds of basic information will pop up for you on that form, whether it’s for the Health Center, or…about academic advisers,” Westphal explained.
There will also be an attempt to streamline the mailings and give them a more common or cohesive aesthetic.
Many students who have gone on the backpacking trip found it to be central to making them feel a part of the Swarthmore community, and want the program to continue.
“It’s a hard thing. The outdoor experience is so strong and so positive for the people who have been involved, but it doesn’t go with our Swarthmore way of everybody having that kind of opportunity,” Westphal said. “It’s hard to give up something that has been so influential to you as a person. But there are so many things here that are influential to each person that don’t have a yes-you-can, no-you-can’t aspect to them.”