Pomona College will keep next fall’s Orientation Adventure destinations within four hours’ driving distance from campus, according to the college’s Director of Outdoor Education Martin Crawford and two student OA leaders informed about the situation, forcing the college to cut the Yosemite National Park trip, and possibly others.
Incoming students embark on OA trips as part of their orientation program, during which they spend four days in groups with fellow new students doing outdoor activities, according to offerings listed on Pomona’s website.
OA trips in the past have taken students to spots like Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, the Channel Islands and downtown Los Angeles.
With the new rule, destinations such as Yosemite will no longer be offered, and “most likely not Channel Islands National Park,” Crawford said via email. “There are a few locations that are just on the cusp of the new four-hour window that we will need to look closely at including Morro Bay State Park and Sequoia National Park.”
The Channel Islands trip did not take place in the fall of 2019, according to outdoor education coordinator Chris Weyant. Crawford previously told TSL this was due to separate changes to the orientation schedule.
OA leaders learned of the change in the fall, during two open forums with Dean of Campus Life Josh Eisenberg, according to OA leader Nolan Clark PO ’22. OEC staff was informed last week, student employee Samantha Meyer PO ’22 said.
The move is the latest in a series of changes to orientation programs. Pomona has been working in the past two academic years to shorten orientation in response to student feedback, administrators said.
In fall 2018, Pomona moved OA to students’ second year, prompting backlash from the student body. The school ultimately reversed the decision and shaved a day off fall 2019 orientation without taking time from OA.
Clark led the Yosemite trip this fall. He said Yosemite has been a special experience for some students, but he thinks the OA program overall will be mostly unaffected.
“I think there’s something very notable about Yosemite. I mean, it’s an incredibly popular national park,” he said. “But I do think that that natural experience is something that can come wherever you are. … I think OA is going to be fine, genuinely.”
Meyer, who also led a fall Yosemite trip, echoed Clark’s sentiment.
“Going to Yosemite this past year as a leader was a really good experience for me because I had never been to a national park before, so even as a leader it was a really rewarding experience,” Meyer said. “If they need to make changes, I’m fine with them making changes, as long as it still remains a positive experience for first-years.”
Clark praised administrators for being receptive to student feedback on OA.
“I think there’s been a good effort on the side of the dean’s office to ensure that us OA leaders and the student body are being heard,” he said.
Sara Anderson PO ’23, who went to Morro Bay for her OA trip, mirrored the other two students’ statements.
“I feel like if [future first-years] aren’t aware of the previous possibility to go to Yosemite, then they probably won’t care, but if they knew that that was an option and it was no longer … I would be disappointed,” Anderson said.
This change to OA trip offerings comes amid broader discussions among the Orientation Planning Committee and Pomona’s Executive Committee about further changes to the college’s orientation program, Eisenberg said via email. Potential changes are reportedly based on student, faculty and staff feedback and will be discussed in meetings later this month.