Proposed new student orientation program meets resistance from Sabbatical Officers

The first Student Council meeting of the semester took place on Thursday 24 January, with motions that ranged from fund allocations for a new mural dedicated to women of colour on George Square, to increasing transportation to the Edinburgh BioQuarter.

Most notably, students proposed a “Welcome Week Orientation” programme which would include placing students into random groups before arrival on campus at the start of the academic year, in order to better the matriculation process.

The motion, presented by International and Multicultural Activities Representative Alexander Basescu, was designed to increase the sense of community on campus.

“A lot of students are having to face the fact that they have to rely on themselves to get acquainted with university resources, and that means that [they’re] accessing these resources after a problem arises, rather than preemptively to help us through these problems before they actually become really damaging,” Basescu said.

Initial plans for the orientation program only extend to undergraduate students and include a peer mentoring scheme and education on sexual consent and inclusivity in order to promote safety and welfare.

The Sabbatical Officers, however, voiced doubt on the likelihood of achieving such an ambitious program.

“This idea of creating a whole new system based on the American model doesn’t really sit well with myself and I think with the rest of the team because we’d be creating a whole new set of structures instead of building and expanding on the ones that already exist… It seems like a diversion from actually what we are working on right now of improving and expanding existing and well-evidenced work that needs more money and effort.” Vice-President (VP) Welfare Kai O’Doherty said.

VP Community, Georgie Harris, felt similarly and proposed that if the motion itself does not pass, parts of the motion, such as mandatory sexual consent workshops, be reintroduced and added to the current orientation.

“The idea is very interesting, but it’s something that would require at least four years of lobbying, and then once the university agreed, then it would require a lot of work to take hold,” she added.

Ultimately, Basescu felt that the work would be well worth it in order to provide new students with peer support, expose them to welfare resources, and cited comparable programs implemented by other similarly sized universities such as University College London and the University of Glasgow.

“I don’t think that the fact that this is something that would create a lot of work for Sabbatical Officers should be considered to be the main [con] against it. But I understand that this is a lot of work, we have the same end goal, improving the student experience.”

Image: Sara Konradi

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