As members of the Class of 2013 move on from ADOCH, they begin the long wait until their next major event at Brown: Orientation. We've all been through it, but Brunonians graduating in 2009 and 2010 experienced their first days somewhat differently — mostly because there were more of them. The University should return to a six-day orientation, a move recommended in no small part by problems with the current Third World Transition Program.
TWTP is a valuable forum for students of color to discuss issues of race, class and gender and we hope that it remains a fixture of Orientation. However, the program's current timing (before the rest of Orientation) does significant damage to its stated aims. As we have previously noted, social life at Brown is dangerously divided along racial lines, a problem to which the current TWTP schedule contributes. TWTP participants have noted that, like all new first-years, they tend to make friends and personal connections with the people they meet in their first few weeks.
Given the demographic makeup of TWTP, social groups largely or entirely composed of students of color form before those students even have a chance to meet their peers who arrive on "White Tuesday," a term used by some TWTP participants in reference to the first day of Orientation. This is not a healthy way to promote interracial dialogue and understanding.
That is not to say that there shouldn't be any programming exclusive to students of color. We believe all aspects of TWTP should be incorporated into Orientation. Unfortunately, this transition cannot happen as long as the University insists on limiting Orientation to three days.
The University's most compelling justification for the current length of Orientation is that the old system resulted in more alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct among first-years. If evidence existed to support such a claim, we might agree. In fact, recent crime records suggest the opposite: In 2007, the first year in which the shortened Orientation was used, there were three times as many forcible sex offenses on campus as in 2006.
A longer Orientation would also allow for a more steady and manageable introduction to the University, giving students more time to get to know Brown's curriculum and organizations as well as their fellow first-years. There's a reason that 200 polled students unanimously preferred the old Orientation to the new one.
We recognize that the schedule for next year is already in place. However, as the University starts putting the 2009 schedule together, we hope they will consider how much easier (and more welcoming) it could be in 2010.
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