Office of the Provost & Vice-President (Academic)


TO: Members of Senate

FROM: Greg Moran

DATE: April 10, 2000

SUBJECT: Fall Orientation Activities, 2000-01

The orientation activities that traditionally occupy the days leading up to the commencement of classes in the fall term have long been a subject of debate at Western. Many on campus have felt that a historic over-emphasis on social events and , particularly, alcohol consumption, present a risk to the health and emotional well-being of some of our students. Many of these activities also set inappropriate expectations that were at odds with the realities of the academic year. Students, faculty, and the University administration have worked together over the years to reduce the more undesirable features of past orientation weeks and to lend a more academic tone to the activities. The continuation and elaboration of these changes is especially important because changes to Ontario's secondary school system will mean that Western's future incoming classes will be a year younger, and under the legal drinking age. In part, recent improvements to orientation at Western have been achieved by a substantial shortening of the orientation period. The shorter orientation period also reflects the fact that time-consuming registration activities in the week before classes has been eliminated, and that most students now partake in extensive orientation programs over the summer and into the first term.

In recent years, the period of orientation activities has been reduced considerably from the full week of the past. In 1999-2000, for example, move-in for Western's residences was on Labour Day Monday, and classes commenced on the Thursday of that week. (The beginning of orientation activities is more-or-less set by the move-in date in Western's residences.) This arrangement left Tuesday and Wednesday free for orientation activities. At its last meeting, Senate established the Monday after Labour Day as the start date for classes, immediately rekindling discussions about the length of orientation, and raising fears in some that the new start date would bring a return to the full week of orientation activities. Because of the importance of the orientation period to the University, this motion is brought to Senate with the intent of establishing clearly the position of Western's senior academic body on this matter.

The University Administration, believing that it is acting with the support of the majority of the Western community, is proposing to arrange the week following Labour Day such that would provide adequate time for orientation activities similar to those of recent years, but would not allow for the full orientation week of more distant times. This plan will expand move-in at our residences to two days, Wednesday and Thursday, allowing for the substantial increases in numbers that can no longer be accommodated in a single day. This arrangement will leave a full weekday, Friday, and the weekend, free for orientation activities for all students. Moreover, for students not in residence and those who move into residence on the first day, Wednesday and Thursday will also be available, in part, for such activities. Move-in days set any earlier in the week would provide more time for orientation activities than is required and would increase the likelihood of a return to the worst aspects of orientation weeks of the more distant past.

Recommended: That Senate endorse the principle that the week preceding classes in the Fall term will allow for Orientation activities similar in nature and extent to those of recent years, but will not provide an opportunity for the full week of orientation of the more distant past.