CCSC discusses NSOP, ISOP, COOP, and the alphabet soup that makes up Columbia’s pre-orientation programs.

After two Sundays in a row of no general body meetings, class council and at-large representatives of CCSC met on Sunday, November 7th. Members had the option of attending virtually or in person in the Satow room.

After E-board and task force updates, the main item on this week’s agenda was a discussion of Columbia’s pre-orientation programs. President Rads Mehta (CC ’22) shared that there have been talks with the administration about reorganizing the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP), and there is a desire for student input concerning this undertaking. President Metha went on to reacclimate CCSC members with some of the current pre-orientation programs that come before NSOP, including Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COOP), Columbia Urban Experience (CUE), and International Student Orientation Program (ISOP).  

COOP is a CC/SEAS-specific, student-led, four-day camping and outdoors trip. President Mehta shared that generally, those who participate in COOP tend to love their experience and maintain the connections they make at COOP for the duration of their Columbia experience. That being said, Mehta noted that there have been reported feelings of exclusion from those who did not participate in COOP. When NSOP starts, according to Mehta, sometimes first years who did not participate in COOP or perhaps do not learn of it until after NSOP starts, feel excluded from the friend groups that emerge from this experience. 

In addition to COOP, CUE is a pre-orientation program designed to immerse first-year students into the NYC experience. They have upperclassmen leaders who facilitate a “get to know the city” type of program that is centered on social justice.

Finally, ISOP is a pre-orientation program for international students only, in which they are acclimated to life in the U.S. and NYC.

President Mehta shared that pre-pandemic, these vivacious pre-orientation programs were carried out every year. However, this year the first years all moved in at the same time, with no programs except for NSOP offered to settle them into college life. According to Mehta, as of right now Undergraduate Student Life (USL) plans to do away with the aforementioned pre-orientation programs and to replace them with smaller-scale activities during Labor Day weekend, but she assured the group that this is not a sure plan and that these pre-orientation programs may very well still exist next year contingent upon student input. She then gave the floor over to any members who wanted to share feedback/perspective on the matter. 

Many CCSC members relayed that they believe pre-orientation programs, especially COOP, are essential, and according to Class of 2022 Representative Wesley Schmidt (CC ’22), these programs provide strong friendships and experiences before the beginning of college that cannot be replicated with a mere weekend event on campus. Class of 2024 VP Kathan Reddy (CC’24) shared that as a member of the class of 2024, he was disappointed that COOP was not an option for him due to COVID-19 and that the level of bonding that occurs at programs like COOP seems to be more productive than at a smaller scale event.

In response to the concerns of exclusion of students who do not participate in COOP, Race and Ethnicity Representative Kwolanne Felix (CC’22) noted that while COOP is a great way to make friends, it is highly unlikely that students will meet all the friends they are ever going to make in just their first three days on campus. Class of 2023 President  Charlie Wallace (CC ’23) echoed this point in saying that while he did make many friends during COOP, he also has friends who did not participate. 

Shifting to CUE, University Senator Brandon Shi (CC ’22) shared that the program,  which is specifically centered on social justice and identity-based conversations, as well as what it means to go to Columbia, really helped to situate him before starting school. He suggested that Columbia should expand access to pre-orientation programs as opposed to eliminating them or scaling them down. Shi emphasized that this would create an opportunity for more students to meet peers outside of their typical socioeconomic background.

On the note of accessibility, FLI Representative Jaine Archambeau (CC ’22) voiced that COOP does supply students who demonstrate need with financial support, and in her own personal experience, the program greatly helped her acclimate to the Columbia environment. Additionally, she noted that being a COOP leader is an important and fun experience, which should be kept in mind when discussing the future of the program and its effect on not just first years, but upperclassmen. In the same vein, President Mehta shared that although she did not participate in COOP as a freshman, she was a COOP leader and that she believes she would have had a better NSOP experience if she did do COOP as a freshman. Mehta described it as an immersive experience in which students are disconnected from phones and social media, and are able to have transparent conversations about topics concerning campus life that they wouldn’t typically be able to have with older students.   

In discussing NSOP, Columbia’s mandatory orientation program, Class of 2025 President Mariam Hayat Jallow (CC’25) noted that many students do not feel particularly impacted by their OL groups and/or do not feel connected with them, often as a result of awkwardness and the lack of events attended with one’s actual OL group. Religion Representative Mohammad Khalil (CC ‘23) doubled down on this point by noting that many OL group activities are simply mandatory events the group has to do together, instead of activities that help students truly get to know each other. Overall, it seemed CCSC members were in favor of keeping programs like COOP, and perhaps even expanding pre-orientation programs in the future so that students can become better acclimated to campus, make better connections, and avoid long move-in lines that come with a “one size fits all” move-in day.

See you next week!

Alma via Bwarchives