First-Year Orientation is to be held in person from Tuesday 22nd September until Saturday 26th September. UCDSU will not be participating in-person due to public health concerns.
Peer Mentors will be required to book specific staggered time slots for their group of students, which contain an average of 7 people. The university intends on limiting the number of incoming students on campus at any one time to 4662. As of the deadline on 1 July 2020, 9072 incoming students had recorded UCD as their first preference on their CAO application. UCD remained as the “university of first choice” in Ireland for 2020.
Incoming students will gather on O’Reilly Hall Lawn, beside the lake. Students will be led into the UCD Welcome Centre where they will watch a video induction. From there they will be brought through the campus in small groups by Peer Mentors. While this traditionally has included a tour of all buildings, it is understood that the tour will be strictly outdoors, with the exception of the main building they will be taught in. Communal spaces such as the libraries and restaurant building will not be included on the tour.
While it was originally planned that the UCDSU would hold a welcome event for students in the Astra Hall, this has since been moved online. Speaking to The University Observer UCDSU President Conor Anderson said;
“We as the SU have been involved in orientation planning since the beginning. Obviously the plans have been... back-and-forth as the public health guidelines have changed. The plans we had ... were to have all six sabbats in Astra Hall as the end point of the orientation tour for the five days meeting approximately 1500 students per day, in an indoor enclosed space with sort of semi-social distancing. So much of the tour is outside and therefore not subject to the same social distancing rules. Our Health and Safety advisor asked us why would you do that? It doesn’t make any sense. The risk is too great, you can do it online. After consultation with the sabbatical team, our events manager and our staff we decided that it didn’t make sense for us to do it.”
“The fact that we made this decision almost a week ago, at the beginning of September gives us the time to plan a really effective online [event]. There will be on-campus portions. The sabbatical team will be out and about around campus doing stuff, we’re [not going to do a] concentrated indoor event that we were originally planning... Part of the problem was that all the outdoor space was booked up so there was no outdoor space left for us to participate.”
“As the union, we are in the unique position where we don’t have a financial stake in the students being on-campus. We can do our jobs online, We can work from home, we have been doing it now for six months... We can make the call based simply on the public health information [that] it is too risky for us to be in-person and on campus. University staff and academic staff do not have that luxury and I think that is something that is important for us to mention. It illustrates that UCD management are not looking only at public health information when making their decisions. We looked at public health information and made a decision and, solely based on that, came to the conclusion that [with] the risk.. there is no point... What do we gain from putting people at risk?.. It can be done perfectly well on-line.”