Fall term break not worth a fragmented orientation week

Queen’s legacy fades as the orientation week that once brought us together falls apart

Image supplied by: Tessa Warburton
Wronko takes issue with the new Orientation Week structure.

After its inaugural run and seeing the new two academic days in practice, the Queen’s community needs to have a conversation about the new Orientation Week structure—and whether it’s something worth reversing.

The class of ‘22 was the first to follow the new format, which was passed by Queen’s Senate in Mar. 2017 in efforts to accommodate the new fallterm break. 

Past Orientation Weeks began with students moving in on Labour Day Sunday and having orientation week run until the following Saturday night. Students ended with Sunday as a day of rest before the beginning of classes.

Currently, the Thursday and Friday of Orientation Week have become school days with orientation focused activities resuming again on Saturday and Sunday. In exchange, students will receive two days off at the end
of October.

Having been active with orientation throughout my years at Queen’s, it was disheartening to see the fragmented Orientation Week in practice.

Both University and Faculty Orientation kept their same programming in the 

new condensed time—making it a challenge of logistics and stamina for students and Orientation staff alike.

While the current arrangement technically satisfies academic day requirement for degree accreditations, there were students who found  themselves with empty days.

For the students that didn’t have class scheduled or who had labs that didn’t run until after their first lecture, the modified Orientation Week schedule was an inefficient use of time. When there are more activities than time in the schedule, every day matters.

One of the greatest challenges Orientation Leaders saw was re-engaging students  into frosh events once the weekend rolled around. Engineering Orientation was especially undermined as the pole climb—arguably the climax of the week—was subdued by the addition of two school days.

I spoke with students opting to miss out on their Saturday events because they were anxious to get ahead in their classes. By the last day of Orientation Week, only a handful of students had the stamina to engage in  programming. 

While Orientation Week experiences differ, the discombobulating pace was unignorable and counterintuitive to what a student’s first week at Queen’s is about.

The idea of a fall term break and a proper Queen’s Orientation Week are mutually exclusive. We’ll damage first year experiences by trying to have our cake and eat it too.

There will be inevitable growing pains with a major structural change, and we could give time for the University and Faculty orientations to adjust—but it might be too late. The students who’d be able to speak to validity of a full Orientation Week willhave graduated.

With time, the consensus could be to further reduce Orientation Week to the standard three days—making the way we welcome students no different than any other Canadian university.

A huge part of the Queen’s experience and identity comes from our Orientation Week, its traditions, and how we usher in the entering class.

It’s not a surprise that upper year Arts and Science students voted to support the fall term break when surveyed by the AMS—a population who’s bemoaned their orientation in hindsight and stand to benefit from getting two days of break.

The students who favour the fall term break due to an underwhelming orientation experience need to understand that Orientation Week’s structure and activities are two different things.

Establishing a better structure should be the first step before addressing programming concerns. Introducing a fall break undermines the opportunity to build a better frosh experience for future students.

Overall, the point of orientation is to help students transition to university, meet new friends and build an initial support network. It’s safer for incoming students if organizers assume the transition isn’t easy rather than worrying about cramping upper-year students’ style.

Our previous Orientation Week structure is better suited for this purpose.

If maintaining this aspect of our Queen’s identify is important, whether the Orientation Week of old gets restored depends on the upper years of today.

The people who have benefitted from a well paced Orientation Week can speak to the validity of the original structure. These are the people who can lobby the Queen’s Senate and reverse the decision before it becomes normalized. 

As Queen’s tradition chips away and our Orientation Week becomes indecipherable from other universities, the bond keeping our alumni network close will loosen. Possibly one day in the future, meeting another Queen’s graduate outside of school will lose its excitement.

The benefit of a fully formed Orientation Week will have a longer lasting impact on Queen’s student’s time than two days off in October. 

We need to understand the short-term instant gratification of a fall term break pales in comparison to the long-term social benefits and tight knit legacy of  orientation.

Queen’s pride means looking out for the future students of our institution. If the University and its community are interested in preserving a Queen’s-spirited Orientation, the conversation needs to begin now.

Mikayla is a fifth-year Applied Economics major and Computer Science minor.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Wronko as an Economics major. She’s an Applied Economics major. 

The Journal regrets the error


first year, Frosh Week, Orientation Week

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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