Freshers’ dis-orientation


With confusion surrounding the scheduling of Orientation Week in 2010, Bridget Fitzsimons asks why UCD seems content to project an image of inefficiency to its incoming students

We all remember the excitement of our first Orientation Week: the tours, the free diaries, and the IT tutorials we did just to get a free USB key. We had gotten out of school, chosen UCD and were – for the most part – happy to have arrived in Belfield with a few years’ college life ahead of us. Next year’s wave of incoming freshers, however, may not have this happy and secure feeling.
Next year’s Orientation Week looks to be problematic to say the least. As the June Bank Holiday falls later than usual in 2010, on Monday 7th June, the Leaving Certificate exams will not start until two days later, on Wednesday the 9th June. This, in turn, causes a chain reaction that will ultimately bring chaos to the orientation period. With the examinations starting later than usual, CAO offers will also be delayed by a week: so late, in fact, that the CAO First Round offers will not be issued until the first day of what UCD have scheduled to be Orientation Week.
Orientation 2 This is clearly a logistical nightmare that raises a range of questions. UCD is a university that attracts students from around the country, and indeed from around the world. It is understandable that prospective students-to-be simply will not be willing to make a cross-country trip for two or three days of orientation, when they cannot know for sure if they will, in fact, actually be enrolling in the University.
This group of students will also be left to deal with the problems that will invariably rise with on-campus residences. Traditionally, with the first batch of CAO offers being released on the Monday after Leaving Certificate results, students intending to apply for a campus bedroom could not apply until three days after their offer had been accepted. If this former model is to continue, first year students will be unable to apply to the campus residences – at the very earliest – until four days before tuition begins.
Will the University be sending out orientation packs to every student who applies for a course? One fundamental problem is that even after student accepts their CAO offer, UCD are not formally notified for two days thereafter – meaning that the University will be dealing with students entirely unknown to them, but who can validly claim to have begun registration. Can anyone who puts UCD on their CAO form turn up to the President’s address?
The problems are innumerable, and do not stop with the incoming first years. If UCD decide to delay their orientation by a week to cope with the logistical problems that will arise, problems with examinations will be encountered.
The current 2010 calendar schedules the first semester’s exams to end on the 17th December, a Friday. Delaying orientation by one week would require the University to either fix some exams for Christmas Eve, or to remove the Sunday moratorium on exams – inevitably causing another logistical headache for staff and students alike. UCD would thus have to choose between creating problems for new students, trying to settle into life in UCD, or for the whole University by pushing back the last day of exams to include the Christmas week.
It seems UCD, by virtue of being a fully semesterised institution with exams before Christmas, is the only third level institution to be affected by next year’s amended schedule. The problems that the University will face as a result are a mere drop in the ocean, though, with financial cutbacks continuing all over the University. They are visible in every facet of campus. This cutback, though, seems to be on intelligence: why is it that we are incapable of simple planning and proper semester structure that can allow for the smooth running of a university?
This disorganisation and poor planning echoes an earlier decision to cut Programme Office opening hours just when they are needed most. UCD seems oblivious to the fact that proper investment in certain areas saves money on administration and related costs, and logistical woes for those involved. If this problem had been dealt with properly and efficiently, we would not bear witness to countless meetings with innumerable people scratching their heads in a vain attempt to find a solution for yet another problem that seems only to affect UCD.
Simply put, this is not the message our University should be sending to incoming students. If the first process they encounter at UCD is a troublesome and inconvenient registration process, what reason do they have not to believe that the rest of the experience will be the same? A University is only as good as the students it attracts, so both projecting an efficient image and actually enacting it is vital for UCD. Instead of procrastinating and thoughtless planning, positive action needs to be taken to avoid endless administrational problems so that next year’s first years can easily adapt to what should be a exciting new chapter in their young lives.