Members of the Cornell Orientation Steering Committee and Student Assembly addressed concerns from first year students at a forum hosted during Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting at Robert Purcell Community Center.
After concluding the S.A. general meeting, President Jordan Berger ’17 opened the forum by asking members of the community — especially first-year students — to come forward and share what they felt was missing from their transition to Cornell.
OSC co-chair Ethan Kramer ’17 — along with OSC members Finn McFarland ’18 and Emily Hunsinger ’18 — fielded questions from the community.
After a few minutes of discussion, ILR student Joseph Anderson ’20 sparked a long conversation on the required orientation events Tapestry and Speak About It by recalling a hostile exchange between a student moderator and an audience member during a Tapestry question and answer session.
“At least in [my Tapestry event], it got very hostile between the student moderator and the students who were questioning,” Anderson said. “At one point, someone asked a question about why [Tapestry] didn’t include male rape and the moderator addressed that and then someone next to her said ‘I thought you were very dismissive to his comment,’ and it started a very hostile environment.”
Anderson later elaborated on the incident, saying that the argument began when the student moderator responded to a question about male rape with ‘it predominantly affects females, so we address the female issue.’
Anderson said that students from other Tapestry shows reported similar arguments between students of different years. He said that he did not wish to see such arguments, calling them “something that shouldn’t be happening in a conversation that should be happening.”
Richard Wang ’18, S.A. arts and sciences representative and a resident advisor in Mews Hall, said that he had received feedback saying that this fall’s Tapestry performances were run very poorly, adding that he received similar complaints last fall.
Wang said that Cornell’s Ordinary People troupe — the group responsible for Tapestry — has been trying to reduce its performance times by hosting larger discussion groups after events.
“[Residential and New Student Programs] is very aware that both the actual performances and acting and the content was subpar and essentially do not touch upon issues of racial diversity at all,” Wang said. “We do see that’s a problem and that’s a direct failure of the people who put on ‘Tapestry,’ which is a student group.”
In response to concerns saying that a significant number of students were swiping their IDs at Tapestry and Speak About It and then sneaking out of the performances early, Kramer said that he was aware of the issue and that students who did leave early were the ones who needed to watch the performances the most.
Students attempting to sneak out of these orientation events is a recurring issue every year, according to Kramer, and OSC is considering solutions such as requiring students to swipe their IDs a second time at Speak About It as they exit the show.
”This year, in just one showing of about 200 people, we caught 40 people trying to sneak out and sent them back inside,” Kramer said. “The R.A.’s that walk their students there usually stay and usually the Residence Hall Directors stay and help us out, but occasionally students do leave. That is something we are aware of as an issue … we’re looking forward to having more people staffed there to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Arts and Sciences student Keenan Ashbrook ’20 said that although the current guidebook attempted to break the events into multiple layers, crucial events such as ‘Open House for Arts and Sciences students’ were buried by other events.
“With Open House, there was a title and there was a time and there was a description, but there wasn’t really much indication of how important things were,” Ashbrook said. “There was an event about how to set up your printer and that was described in exactly the same way, manner and space dedicated to Open House. Obviously a lot of those informational events were important, like how to use the TCAT, but I feel like the Open Houses specifically for colleges need to be highlighted.”
Kramer expressed caution about highlighting specific events, saying that an important event for one person might be as important to another person.
“Did you see how many people were there [at the TCAT event]? There were probably about 250 to 300 people learning about the TCAT, which to some seniors on campus might be just a bus system. But to new students it’s a very big concern,” Kramer said. “It’s very hard to organize. It is very difficult but we don’t want to highlight one event because it might not be as important to another person.”