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Orientation for All

Each person comes away from Orientation with something different. Brandeis Orientation often brings to mind spirit rallies, Dean Jamele Adams’ slam poetry, inspirational talks by administrators and authors, glorious sunsets as the campus undergoes the last days of summer and even not-so-glorious sex-ed talks. Orientation is designed to launch hundreds of new students into an unfamiliar campus life. For many students, Orientation serves as the first few days that they’ve spent living away from family. No matter who experiences it, Orientation undoubtedly leads to a world of firsts.

My Orientation story was quite positive and greatly fulfilling, and I often think of those days last August as some of the best of my life. They were filled with a whirlwind of fun, team-building and social justice-instilling activities, which led me to go into the new year with my eyes and arms wide open, ready and excited for whatever came next. It was during the first days of Orientation that I met some of my very best friends, and it was during the same span that I began to develop a real love for the college that I choose to attend.

Importantly, Orientation reinforced in many of us a driving spirit for social justice. I chose to attend Brandeis because I heartily identified with its spirit of social progress, of change and of a fearless attitude about holding serious discussions and confronting local and global issues. Some claim that the spirit of social justice at our institution was lost years ago, but I have seen differently. It is alive and thriving in so many of the students.

Orientation reawakened a spirit within me, and is designed largely to awaken a spirit in all first-years. I believe, however, that Orientation does not have to serve solely as a first-year institution, but that it can serve as a convention for all returning students. Following summer break, first-years return as sophomores, sophomores as juniors and juniors as seniors. I believe that a reorientation program has the potential to be a valuable experience for each of these classes.

What I suggest is not as long or in-depth a program as is employed for first-years. First-years need to learn the geography of their new campus, adjust to dorm-living and acclimate to a new home. First-years need a multi-day program to orient them in their new environments.

I propose that sophomores, juniors and seniors should be allowed to participate in a one-day reorientation program following move-in day. The program would be opt-in and could serve multiple purposes. Above all it would reenergize students for the new year and serve to remind participants of the ideals of social justice that are central to what we prize in our institution.

Imagine a day of camaraderie, another extraordinary performance of Dean Adams’ poetry, an evening to mix and talk and feel a spirit of possibility before setting off into another year of toil and effort for the things in which we find excitement. I feel that a community day of this type would do beneficial things for our collective self and for each person returning to the school that we call home.

Some may laugh off such a program—many in fact do. Hoping that such an event can make a major impact on a person is a tall order. That being said, there are reasons why companies and other organizations hold such functions for staff on a regular basis. It’s because not only do gatherings such as these instill values, but they also serve to foster a community spirit, a quality that can shape someone’s general outlook on life.

That’s not to say that this sort of affair is expected to radically change the world, but it could be a positive. Instituting some form of reorientation might remind us why we signed up to attend Brandeis; it might remind us what social justice means to each of us or it might remind us of some of the unique qualities of those in our community. That’s the thing about Orientation—each person comes away from it with something different.

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