The Campus Advisor position has been eliminated for new student orientation for the class of 2018. The CA position was a voluntary one that made up one-third of the leadership of the MARACAS groups that freshmen are assigned to for orientation, the other leaders being Resident Assistants and Student Academic Mentors. In recent years, MARACAS groups have been formed on the basis of the halls to which the first-year students, SAM and RA belonged, with CAs only sometimes belonging to the same hall.
Lili Rodriguez, associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and community development, and Rachel Head, assistant dean for residential life, said the decision to revamp orientation in this way was made after years of collecting feedback from participants and after hearing from CAs, RAs and other early-return participants.
In their comments to the Phoenix, they did not specify the precise reasons why.
“With StuCo’s help, we are actively recruiting a larger and more diverse Orientation Committee,” Rodriguez and Head said. “This larger committee will be charged with organizing many of the social events and traditions that occur during Orientation. The RAs and SAMs will continue to take the lead as the group facilitators and leaders for their first-year students and will now also serve as the official greeters for new community members. This is important, because it allows RAs and SAMs to establish dorm teams more thoughtfully and to begin to build their relationships with new students right away.”
But former CA Shaina Lu ’16 thinks the CA position is very helpful and outlined its utility.
“The CAs did a lot of the leg work for orientation, from getting their first-years to the right place at the right time, to getting things to the proper locations like food in the dorms for Taste of Philly, to answering random questions,” Lu said. “I thought that the CAs provided very valuable insight and help to the first years being that they were mostly sophomores and had just been in the first-year’s footsteps not too long ago. I also thought the CAs were incredibly useful since the RAs were still in training. And I always hear about RAs complaining about how much they hate orientation, so why not have a group of people who are super excited for orientation? The CAs clearly want to be here since they are not getting paid or anything — just honestly excited to come back early help the new first-years.”
Other students did not completely understand the utility of a CA and felt they did not have a major role to play in their orientation experience.
Chris You ’17, for example, thinks the lack of CAs will not have not have a significant impact on first-year orientation.
“Personally, for me, I wasn’t sure of the role of a CA,” You said. “Either the training was inadequate, or the position is unnecessary and perhaps better served by RAs and SAMs doubling up to fill the role.”
On the other hand, Desta Pulley ’17 felt CAs played a useful role and opposes the removal of the position.
“I think CAs are very useful because they are a good resource for showing students around campus, answering questions and giving more information about the school, and generally just being another guide and mentor for new students,” Pulley said.
Former CA Mercer Borris ’16 thinks the CA position was an important way to give first-years a chance to meet upperclassmen before classes start, but wishes the role had extended past orientation week.
“I wish the college gave more opportunities to extend the CAs’ job, such as continuing MARACAS dinners and events past orientation week and into the fall semester,” Borris said. “Once orientation ends, Swarthmore considers the CA job to be finished.”
However, given the way MARACAS groups were configured, Borris still supports the removal of the position.
“I found that really frustrating because I was assigned to CA a hall that was not even in my dorm. Once my job ended, I was not able to physically be there for my CA group, even though I would have liked to be,” Borris, who supports the decision, says. “I hope that rather than simply eliminate the CA position, the administration continues to improve orientation week and perhaps come up with a new position.”
Resident Advisor Aliya Padamsee ’14 agrees that the CA position is obsolete in its current form and said her current residents felt the CA program was useless, but her experience as a first-year student had been different.
“I have fond memories of my two CAs during my freshman year, when the groups were not hall-based, rather a random grouping,” Padamsee said. “I appreciated that a lot more because I got to know people who I may never otherwise have come into contact with. I don’t see the point of having hall-based CA groups, because you’re going to get to know your hallmates anyway, most likely due to proximity. However, now that RAs and SAMs may be taking over the position, hall-based groupings make the most sense, but are not the most valuable, in my opinion.”
Eleanor Pratt ’14, a former CA and current RA, believes it is crucial for RAs and first-years to establish a relationship of trust and friendliness over the first week and is not opposed to the elimination of the CA position.
“I think it is okay that the CA position has been eliminated because those duties can go to people who are actually paid and have better training,” Pratt said. “There are still ways for underclassmen to be involved in orientation. Just ways that are more sustainable and that can build longer-lasting ties between students and first-years.”
Rodriguez and Head stated that orientation grows and changes every year, with each incoming class being different from the last.
“Another important change is that want to move away from simply thinking of orientation as just one week; orientation at Swat is actually a year, as it can take long to fully get acclimated,” Head said. “We’re identifying students who are interested in doing some of that orientation work throughout the academic, year as well.”