Queen’s failed the class of 2024 by never giving them a proper orientation.
In May 2020, Queen’s announced the 2020-21 school year would be delivered online. While this was the responsible decision to combat the spread of COVID-19, it was equally the first step in halting the first-year experiences of Queen’s now fourth-year students.
First-year students arrive excited to be in lecture halls and hopeful to connect with their professors and peers.
When they should’ve been growing beyond high school, their classrooms were replaced with Zoom meetings joined from their hometown bedrooms. Meetings with future friends were confined to awkward Instagram messages.
This isolation alone tainted the experience of first year and trickled into second year.
Perhaps the most prominent loss, though, was orientation week.
Aspiring Queen’s students know of and look forward to its traditions of welcoming first-year students to campus. Coverall painting, the semi-formal dance, and the Mystery Concert are among a slew of memorable opportunities for incoming students to meet people in their programs while shaking the anxiety of leaving home and arriving somewhere new.
Instead, Queen’s offered a forgettable, online orientation week consisting of online games and stilted Zoom calls.
Perhaps intended as a sweet substitute for the real thing, online orientation only further reminded its participants of what they were missing.
Queen’s could have remedied this in a number of ways.
The University could have allowed affected students to partake in following years’ events once in-person orientation was reinstated, or given students a make-up orientation week, so as to not impede on the class of 2025. Instead, the class of 2024 was neglected. They were left disappointed, watching their younger peers enjoy what they never had, and prohibited from joining in themselves.
The isolation continued into the school year, particularly for those who stayed home. Even students in residence, rather than being exposed to hundreds of new people in their classes, were limited to socializing with the people on their floor. The Athletics and Recreation Centre, Joseph Stauffer Library, and every student-run facility was closed in the 2020-21 year, preventing students from making regular use of campus.
Ontario’s emergency lockdown at the beginning of 2021 led the University to encourage those in residence to stay home after winter break. Whatever limited socialization residence offered
only lasted half a school year for most.
Those students remained online for much of their second year as well. They continued to face difficulties bonding with peers, and professors while struggling to feel engaged by their education. They received an incomplete education at an unchanged price.
Students whose first year of university was 2020 lost two years, half of their undergrad, to COVID-19 protocols. They got less time and support in acclimating to, or enjoying university than
other incoming classes.
Many of those affected as first-year students, now in fourth year, will graduate this spring having never been properly oriented at Queen’s—and this is something the University should’ve remedied.
Maddie is a fourth-year sociology student and The Journal’s Senior Arts Editor.
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