Brandeis’ 2016 new student Orientation is full of events meant to critically engage first-year and transfer students with challenging issues facing the Brandeis community and beyond. These events confront new students with issues surrounding race, class, gender and mental health, among others. During their very first week on campus, students will not only learn how important these issues are, but also how to recognize their privileges and have difficult conversations.
Each event will encourage students and their Orientation Leaders (OLs) to reflect on what they experienced and talk about how to contribute to a more inclusive campus climate. Incoming students will be challenged by topics that may make them uncomfortable but are ultimately vital to understanding Brandeis’ values and mission for a more inclusive campus.
During the diversity and inclusion event, “Challenging the Silence: Finding Voice and Giving Voice,” students and their OLs will walk through a series of five rooms in Spingold Theater that each represent an issue on campus: mental health and disability, gender and sexuality, socioeconomic class, race and racial identity and intersectionality. Each room will be presented differently; the intersectionality room will feature three female actors, the gender and sexuality room will contain looped video recordings of interviews and the mental health and disability room will show a skit and song performed by two OLs.
Unlike other years’ Orientation diversity events, incoming students will choose three of the five debriefing sessions to unpack the presentations and gain the skills needed to discuss the issues from a social justice perspective once they have finished the walkthrough. This is beneficial because when the new students return to their OLs for a group discussion, they will be more aware of basic terminology and tools when discussing such critical issues. It will also prevent students from having to explain their own oppression to others.
In “Brandeis Through the Years,” new students will have the opportunity to discover the university’s roots. Walking through the Brandeis History Museum set up in Levin Ballroom, students will learn about the university’s historic moments, its steps toward a more inclusive campus and even where their tuition goes. Similarly, “Remember Yesterday, Explore Today, Brighten Tomorrow: Social justice at Brandeis” examines what it means to engage in social justice at Brandeis.
Orientation’s deliberate and thorough engagement with critical social issues shows incoming students what is important at Brandeis. In only their first few days on campus, they will be confronted with topics that challenge their existing perspectives. In challenging their beliefs, students can better analyze their own identities and privileges. They will also hopefully gain the skills to continue having similar conversations throughout the year, extending Orientation’s impact to the overall campus climate.
In line with the Orientation programming is a new weekly series called “The Dialogues: Navigating Gender and Race at Work.” Part of the #Ask4More initiative that helps women negotiate higher salaries, the year-long series will explore the topics of gender and race in the workplace. The kick-off event will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 13 in the International Lounge and is open to all students.