Orientation Week Stances Explained – Why the Change?

Benjamin Beelen - VP Academic
Posted on: July 4, 2018

You may notice soon that the document of stances has almost doubled in size as a result of my JAGM motion “Orientation Week Stance Version 2.” This was modified from my original stance, which had the BIRT: The following stance be added to the document of stances: “The University of Waterloo and Faculty of Engineering should strive to collect more conclusive evidence of the benefits of the Fall Reading Break before permanently enacting it at the cost of any Orientation Week days (below five days).”

 

What I’ve instead put forward (which passed on both societies) is now two different stances as BIRT: The following stance be added to the document of stances: “The University of Waterloo and Student Success Office should strive to ensure that any assumed culture changes and/or delivery of first year classes within class days of orientation week, if permanently implemented, are ensured to follow the spirit and guiding statement of orientation week” and BIFRT: The following stance be added to the document of stances: “No classes of any form should be held during orientation week.” .

 

Why the sudden change in theme and spirit of motions? Glad you asked! I’ve met with the VPA of the University, Mario Coniglio and the SSO office Director, Pam Charbonneau as well as the FEDs VPed Matt Gerrits. This meeting showed me that the original intention of the data collection and trial of this reading break was not to find conclusive evidence that the reading break benefited students. Looking back that is a very large task that would require significant resources and would be difficult to prove. Instead, the University and SSO office looked into finding if it was possible or not.

 

The benefit to students from the fall reading break and it’s suggested changes to orientation week rely on a “culture change” on campus that also involves the first few days of classes being primarily welcome days and orienting students towards how to be a student. This is the reason for the line “are ensured to follow the spirit and guiding statement of orientation week.” If these days are expected to help orient FY students, it needs to be apparent that it is being done.

 

The burden of finding this I feel most appropriately falls onto the shoulders of those suggesting the change. I believe that a culture change would help orientation week, especially if having class during the week is permanent. There will be a referendum in the Fall of 2018 that will look into passing another “trial” of the full fall reading break, which will likely bump orientation week back by one day, without removing any faculty programming days. This is the reason for my BIFRT that no classes should be held on these three days. I know this stance sounds extreme, and it is, but the fact that it passed on council shows that our society believes that orientation week should be class free. Side note, many programs are putting “design days” during these few days. Those do not count as class from my interpretation of the stance. Additionally, this stance will be deprecated if this Fall Referendum passes.

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