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.
When the IC and BCC group members stepped on campus, they were surprised to find their orientation meetings had been omitted from the printed schedule.
Anjali Jaiman ’10 explained that it wasn’t until Tuesday “when we found out that the orientation schedule didn’t include any IC/BCC events this year.”
Paury Flowers, Assistant Coordinator of Student Activities, explained wanted to simplify orientation. “This year, it was my goal to streamline the printed orientation schedule. In the process, I decided to include only Deans Office and Orientation Committee sponsored events.”
Although the IC groups are connected to the Deans office, Flowers wanted to avoid including any individual club meetings. Instead, she proposed that clubs advertise during the activities fair or hold an open house.
However, Flowers did not communicate this change to IC group leaders during the summer, partly because she did not receive any emails from them about meetings. The Women’s Resource Center (WRC), whose barbecue event as listed in the schedule, had requested for a placement in the orientation.
“It hadn’t come up with members of IC groups, all summer. When I talked to Rafael, it never occurred to me that we should have a conversation about an open house,” she said.
However, Cecilia Marquez ’11 said she was expecting an email from orientation organizers “asking if we would like to have a session. That email never came.”
Jaiman explained the importance of the IC individual meetings during orientation. “I think it’s really important to have support that first week, because you don’t know people and you come across weird dynamics.”
Jaiman herself experienced “weird homophobic comments” during orientation.
“I transferred because I hadn’t felt comfortable at the University of Chicago for those reasons. It was comforting to go to that space [a SQU meeting] and see it in the orientation schedule, see that this event was institutionally sanctioned for this event, and there was nothing in conflict with this event.”
Cecilia Marquez ’11 agreed, saying that “Orientation was rough when I first came, and I really found my family in my cultural groups… I went to Enlace and found people to mentor me, it was exciting for me to find that support and it’s important for me to pass that down.”
In response to the sudden change, Jaiman and others “organized an organic outburst of people.” Within a few hours, Flowers responded and proposed an IC open house as an immediate solution.
Marquez was glad that there was an open house and “we strategized the best way to get the word out… Dean Larimore announced it at the play and the diversity workshops. But the bigger issue is why was it taken away?”
Jaimain said the solution was “a band aid for a bigger problem. Ultimately, IC/BCC events need to be in orientation next year.”
Director of the Intercultural Center Rafael Zapata stressed that “This wasn’t done in any negative way… it was an issue of communication… I don’t think there was anything malicious, communication just broke down. My sense is that there was a solid rationale for the changes and what ended up happening was that those changes were not discussed or properly communicated.”
Unfortunately, Zapata said, “when it was changed without their knowledge, students didn’t know what to make of it.”
Flower’s rationale was that “we don’t want to advertise on individual group over another… the first opportunity, I feel like, is during the activities fair. That’s the fairest way to do it.”
Jaiman responded that “IC/BCC groups aren’t quite the same as ultimate [frisbee]… it’s about getting support that’s crucial during orientation week, a really stressful time.”
Marquez also pointed out the significance of inclusion in the orientation schedule.
“The institution is saying, we are creating these groups to support our students, and if you are going to have orientation, you have to support them institutionally at the orientation.”
However, Flowers does not intend to revert to the old model of the schedule. “I haven’t questioned the value of the importance of these groups… I just made some attempts where I could to make it work more effective… I’m very proud of the way the orientation committee worked, and I would like to hope when people opened the schedule that it was easier to read.”