S.A. president Jordan Berger '17 speaks at a Student Assembly meeting earlier this year.

Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Senior Photographer

S.A. president Jordan Berger '17 speaks at a Student Assembly meeting earlier this year.

September 2, 2016

First-Year Students Raise Concerns About Orientation Events at Student Assembly Meeting

Print More

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.”

  • isle

    yeah well that event is boring so no wonder people wanted to sneak out.

  • Sami

    Tapestry is not a graduation requirement as dictated by the Provost and University guidelines (unlike the swim test). Students have the right to not attend, or leave early if they so choose. Increased staffing and forcing students to return to the performance is not in keeping with the standards of academic and personal freedom that our University lives by.

  • gg

    Are you kidding me? The students that do Tapestry are juggling rehearsals and 10 shows with school work. Hey Richard Wang, not one show had the whole theater filled to capacity. Get your facts straight.

    • No

      There is no school work during Orientation week

      • Actually….

        Actually, language classes start off with homework, and so do a lot of higher level classes. Being that the cast is comprised of upperclassmen with a variety of majors, aka not just PMA, theh did have a lot of readungs, problem sets, and other assignments that they had to do. Not to mention that they did 3 shows on Saturday and 2 on Sunday and had virtually no time to decompress from performances or catch up on any work before having to go right back to classes the next day. These actors are not only students, but people as well. It’s inappropriate to write something like this without even attempting to contact them to understand what they’re going through to out on these shows for freshmen every year at the expense of the academic, emotional, and physical well-being.

  • Gg

    Also the shows were not during oweek. They were during the first week of classes. AGAIN, get your facts straight. Seems like the RA mentioned in this article needs all the diversity training he can get. He’s arguably seen the show 3 times and can’t exhibit an ounce of respect or empathy, attacking full time students who are trying to do a good thing. The comment directly above mine is absolutely right. This is completely poor journalism and the writer should have contacted students involved. If you actually want to make the diversity program better, publish the perspectives and create a dialogue with the people involved.

  • 1984

    Why is it so important to impose group think and conformity at a university? This is where people should be free to loudly express views others hate or find offensive. We see one fringe ideology imposed as fact and any disagreement is either evil, illegal, or “wrong”, reality be damned. Maybe some people find mandatory social justice warrior training and indoctrination offensive and invasive.