Kenyon officially has yet another acronym: Upper Class Counselors (UCCs) are now Orientation Leaders (OLs), as announced by Associate Director of New Student Programs Lacey Filkins in an email to 2016 UCCs. Supposed purposes for this change, according to the email, were to ensure a “high impact experience” and greatly expand the required training.
Most significantly, UCC groups of three to five new students will be replaced by OL groups that pair two OLs with groups of about 20 new students assigned to several different faculty advisors, rather than just one. The goal of this is “to strengthen the mentoring relationship,” although it is unclear how this is possible when the OL groups “will function as a single unit,” as stated in Filkins’s email. This method of organization feels shockingly impersonal for a place like Kenyon, which prides itself on its community. For many new students, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. The small size of UCC groups allowed new students to get to know their UCC and advisor, feel comfortable asking all types of questions and obtain personalized advice on academics and life on the Hill.
It is difficult to imagine new students feeling comfortable asking their burning questions in front of 20 other students. And it is difficult to imagine OLs being able to get to know all their advisees — that would mean getting to know the background and interests of at least 10 advisees, if the two OLs split their work evenly. Will OLs remember all those names and faces, so they can wave hello when they pass one of their 20 “OL-ings” on Middle Path?
To make matters more complicated, OL applicants are not permitted to be Sexual Misconduct Advisors, Discrimination Advisors, Peer Counselors, Community Advisors, Beer & Sex Advisors, Fall pre-season athletes or Pre-Orientation leaders — unless Filkins has given prior permission. We think this is a huge mistake, as the students who are often best qualified to be an OL are those who are extremely involved in these programs. These students have gained experience assisting others and dealing with sensitive situations.
OLs will also be required to undergo increased training: eight hours of training in the spring, “some over the summer online,” and three days of training (16 hours) before Orientation begins. It is difficult to imagine why OLs need 24 hours worth of training; it is unclear what has changed so drastically that would call for such extensive training.
The UCC program was valuable because UCCs came from diverse spheres of campus to form tight-knit groups with a few students and one faculty advisor; this enabled UCCs to offer candid opinions and advice to curious, confused new students and develop a quality relationship with their assigned faculty advisor. The drastically increased oversight and structure of the new OL program makes us wonder if this is what administrators wanted all along: more control over how UCCs interact with students and what exactly they tell them.
Administrators, please eliminate the OL program, and bring back the UCCs.