CUE, that community service pre-orientation program, is facing some unwanted changes. The school cut the group from 84 students last year to 54. Historically Barnard subsidizes dining, but this year they’re providing a “small, kind donation” and office supplies. The biggest change, though, is housing. Typically, CUE lives together in McBain, taking up two to three floors. This year, all participants must live in their permanent, academic year dorm (i.e. John Jay, Carman, etc.).
The reasons are not far-fetched: according to Scott Wright, VP of Campus Services, it was to ensure that people living in those McBain rooms will be able to move in early, if need be, and so those rooms will be ready. Moreover, there have been complaints by participants’ parents about not being able to immediately move into their full-time housing. Fair enough, right?
Unfortunately, not really. It appears as though we’ve run into another situation in which those in charge don’t fully understand the effects their choices have on students and programming. “Logistically,” Devin Choudhury, CC’15, CUE co-coordinator explained, “it’s challenging.” Leaders will have to run from building to building to make sure people are up at 7 am before leaving for service projects around the city. Additionally, CUE is a physically demanding and strenuous program, leaving participants exhausted at the end of the day. The trek back to a dorm on an unfamiliar campus might be difficult.
But it’s more than logistics: “CUE is valued for the sense of community that it builds, and that’s largely dependent on having shared housing. … It allows students to spend the first week of college in a very intimate environment, in which they build connections that they normally wouldn’t,” Devin said. The program typically involves complete group togetherness including meals, work, break-out sessions, and nightly hang-outs, so students are only alone when they need to immediately drop to sleep.
“Our biggest concern,” said Kyoko Yamamoto, BC’15, CUE co-coordinator, “is that if you’re a student wanting to do a pre-orientation program, that automatically assumes that you’re probably not very comfortable with coming to college, and this pre-orientation program offers an opportunity to really get acclimated into the city and university. … When everyone was in McBain, we had leaders on every single floor, so if you had an issue you just had to go down the hall. … Now these students are stuck in rooms, floors, even buildings completely alone, and that poses a lot of psychological issues.” This is especially true for Barnard participants, and worst for the few JTS participants–who will be in a more or less empty building up on 122nd.
Still, “it’s not something we can’t work with,” Kyoko insists. But the administration did not inform them of this change until months after the decision was made. Some people in the administration, namely Todd Smith (who just took over from Dean Martinez), have been helping to make do, and Barnard is trying to put their participants on the same floor for the week, but CUE is still upset that there was this initial lack of communication. If they had been given a voice while the decision was being made, they could have explained how harmful this decision could be.
“It’s the fact that they have no real understanding of what our program is, and didn’t think to ask people who were actually involved whether this would positively or negatively affect it,” Kyoko said.
“I mean,” Devin expanded, “the people who were telling us about the decision didn’t know the schedule of the program. They were just like ‘well we’ve made this decision, now tell us about your program.'” Regardless, Devin and Kyoko are moving forward to make CUE as good as possible for the year. “If you cut off my pinky finger, I could still write,” Devin shrugged. “But why would you do that?”
From Scott Wright:
“In year’s past, during their pre-orientation, First-Year students and leaders participating in the CUE program lived in a residence hall reserved for upperclass students. This in essence meant two rooms were prepared for CUE students: the pre-orientation room and the academic year room. The pre-orientation rooms used by CUE were then flipped and cleaned for the academic year resident.
Housing’s primary goal is to allow all students in early arrival programs to move directly into their academic year room. By assigning students in the CUE program to a temporary room during the pre-orientation program, Housing cannot allow the academic year resident early arrival if needed and/or runs the risk of not having the room ready in general for check-in.
The time needed to prepare for early arrival and check-in is greatly compressed by the number of renovation projects conducted by Housing and Facilities during the summer. There is a very short window to do this critical improvement work before the academic year begins. This has recently been shortened even more by the way current academic year falls with one less week of summer than usual.
In order to be ready for all early arrival students, Student Affairs and Housing jointly decided to move CUE participants directly into their academic year rooms.
Additionally, the Student Affairs team has heard concerns voiced by past participants and their parents regarding having to move into two rooms and not being able to settle in upon arrival. The change was also in an effort to address those concerns and provide the opportunity for students to feel immediately welcomed into their permanent space.
The student planners of CUE are working with their adviser to ensure that the quality of the program is not affected by this change and that the experience remains a positive one for participants. Together, they are identifying ways to enhance community building activities within the program.”
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