After reversing her controversial decision last fall to move Pomona College’s Orientation Adventure to students’ sophomore years, Dean of Students Avis Hinkson has held three open forums this semester to collect feedback for the new temporary Orientation Committee.
Hinkson, who arrived at Pomona in August, announced in December the school was moving the four-day outdoor program from students’ first to second years to shorten Pomona’s 10-day orientation. Students were shocked and upset that they did not have the chance to weigh in, and created a petition calling for the reversal of the decision, which quickly garnered 500 signatures.
One week later, Hinkson backpedaled on her policy change for at least one year. She wrote in an email to students that she would host several forums to ensure students’ voices were being heard. The forums were held Jan. 30, Feb. 5 and Feb. 8.
Daniel Garcia PO ’21 attended one because he felt the initial decision and the decision reversal were both made with a lack of student involvement.
“The reversal only helped the superficial problem, because we still have a lot of unknowns and questions regarding OA, and the utter lack of transparency broke trust,” Garcia said. “That trust isn’t going to be rebuilt for a long while.”
Feedback collected at the three forums will be organized and prioritized by the temporary Orientation Committee, which is comprised of two staff members, three students and one faculty member, Hinkson said.
The committee was meant to have three representatives each from students, staff and faculty, but received only 10 total applications combined, most of which were from students.
David Tanenbaum, a physics professor at Pomona since 1997, is the sole faculty representative on the committee. He volunteered for the position because he believes orientation is an important part of the first-year experience.
“Our role is to listen to the open forums and summarize and prioritize this input for the implementation committee,” he wrote in an email to TSL. “We are not making the decisions about the future of orientation, but we should help set the agenda for that discussion.”
Christina Ciambriello, the secretary for the Board of Trustees, and Paola Reyes Noriega, an admissions officer, are also on the committee.
Once the temporary Orientation Committee collects the feedback, they’ll hand it off to the Orientation Implementation Committee, which according to Hinkson, is the ongoing, standing committee on orientation.
The Orientation Implementation Committee is made up of faculty, staff and two student representatives: first-year class president Andriw Read PO ’22 and sponsor Nick Timms PO ’21.
“[The committee] begins to put together a program engaging with all of the logistics and everything that surrounds [orientation],” Hinkson said at the Feb. 8 forum. “They’re putting together a program, getting the appropriate considerations to put together a final event for August 2020.”
At least for fall 2019, though, OA will remain the same.
Some students, like Sam Rubin PO ’19, a two-time former OA leader, thought the forums were a valuable way to gather student input.
“I look forward to hearing more from administration in the future,” he said. “Specifically, working hard to solicit as many opinions and ideas as possible and letting students know before any radical changes are made.”
Others feel differently.
“I hope that [the administration] will actually take the advice of the students who are at these forums and who are talking to them, but [the forums] also are not going to be a completely inclusive group of students,” said Leah Rosenzweig PO ’19, a former sponsor and OA leader. “I noticed just at the forum the other day that there were only 10 students there. Seven of them were people that I knew, and they were all white seniors.”