Letters to the Editor

No decisions made on Orientation

I write to respond to the recent article in The Tech that suggested that a decision had been made to shorten REX. We are looking at Orientation as a whole and the impact on a number of programs. We don’t know the final schedule yet and, at the present time, no decisions have been made. Though we will look for ways to shorten the overall Orientation period, we do not plan to shorten the REX period in the coming year. It is not correct that such a shortening has been decided. The current schedule including the pre-orientation programs that almost 60 percent of the class participate through to Registration Day totals almost two weeks. There is broad agreement that this orientation period is too long. The specifics of REX, and other components will be considered for the following year as we we consult students, staff and other stakeholders.

The Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons, which had significant faculty and student input, recommended that the Chancellor establish a process to examine Orientation to ensure that it met its living and learning objectives. The momentum behind rethinking Orientation increased as a result of the Budget Task Force and the sense that we might be able to do it more efficiently, for example, by using online resources more effectively. We have one of the longest Orientations in the country among our peers and many faculty feel the freshmen start the term too tired. Freshmen report too much free time. In order to give a specific target, the Chancellor suggested looking at how we can shorten Orientation by approximately two days. Reducing orientation by this time does not translate to the full impact being on REX.

As we consider this, the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP) in DUE has been conducting a background study. As part of this process, UAAP recently engaged key stakeholders, include a faculty advisory committee in December; colleagues from the Division of Student Life, International Students Office, Housemasters, MIT Medical and DUE in January; and students, via the UA Senate, in January. The freshman learning communities have also been consulted and consultation with the Student Life Orientation Programs and Experiences (SLOPE) will start this week. The students on the SLOPE committee represent DormCon, UA, fraternities, sororities, independent living groups, SaveTFP and in addition there is a housemaster, a rep from UAAP and DSL staff who support the activities/events.

As these consultations proceed, we will listen to input from all interested stakeholders. We encourage students to work with their representatives on SLOPE to provide input and address their concerns. While it may not be possible to satisfy everyone, we all agree that Orientation should welcome and prepare freshman as they enter our living and learning community.

Daniel Hastings PhD ’80, Dean for Undergraduate Education