The freshmen orientation is the very first school event managed purely by students that newcomers to the school attend. All students gather to enjoy activities and through them, familiarize themselves for school life. However, the freshmen orientation of 2014 had many problems that upset the students evidently more than those of last years. Last year, an accident happened at the UOS freshmen orientation which made UOS to be additionally cautious about safety at all cost. This year, on March 20, the Ministry of Education announced a policy which states as follows: university officials must supervise in the planning of group training such as a freshmen orientation with the added responsibility of insurance applications and location confirmations, practically giving the universities power to control the autonomous events such as the freshmen orientations. It is evident that the freshmen orientations are demanded to change for the better; therefore, The UOS Times reviewed this year’s orientation for the improvement in the future.
The freshmen orientation is annual group training for newcomers to the university. It is practically a tradition for the universities to hold a freshmen orientation for their students. Generally the freshmen orientation is conceived as a helpful and necessary course for freshmen to get a preview of university lives and familiarize themselves with their peers and senior students. In fact, an overwhelming majority of students thinks the freshmen orientation is essential.
The surveys Gonggam Plus conducted in late 2013 (see Survey A) and right after the orientation of 2014 show, respectively, 92 percent and 98 percent of students agreeing that the freshmen orientation is necessary (see Survey B). The survey by The UOS Times also shows a large percentage of 78 which gave a positive view of holding the orientation (see Survey C). There seems to be no question whether students think the orientation is essential. The high percentage of students in favor of the orientation, however, does not necessarily mean that the 2014 orientation was adequate.
It is true that in Survey B and C, the satisfaction rates of students about the orientation are high. Nonetheless, this year’s orientation had many flaws that were brought to discussions and required apologies; there were students who explicitly expressed their discontent both online and offline. A considerable number of respondents answered that the orientation had several problems in the UOS
Times questionnaire. There even was a dispute on Gwangjang, the UOS online community, which even the president of the Student Council, Choi, rendered it serious enough to address himself repeat-edly. He even apologized many times at the first Representative Conference taken place on 25th of March. At this point, it
seems critical to address and analyze this year’s orientation to prevent repeating orientations which have failed to effectively orchestrate it. There should be no more public turmoil about freshmen orientations
in the future like it did this year.
The Unsatisfactory Freshmen Orientation
According to the orientation proposal made by Gonggam Plus, the Student Council of 2014, there are largely three purposes of the freshmen orientation (see the given Note above). It is safe to assume in accordance with opinions of students that the main purpose of the orientation is the promotion of fraternity; 85 percent of students in the survey also agreed that fraternity is the main purpose of the orientation (see Survey C). This
time, however, many students’ voices and reviews of the programs indicated these purposes were not met. Choi also admitted that the Student Council indeed neglected fulfilling those purposed stated by them to focus on safety. The UOS Times hence evaluated this year’s freshmen orientation whether it had met its
purpose as the Student Council stated it in order to make to be the most desirable for to-be-enrolled students at UOS.
The system implemented for the freshmen orientation of 2014 was indeed a fresh attempt to try something not previously done in the last two years. In 2012 and 2013, the orientations were organized by each individual college, having a few hundred at the most attending. Meanwhile, this year’s orientation had approximately 2,600 participants. This brought many complaints from students accustomed to the older system. The two major changes this year, the large number of students and the shortened two-day time period of the trip, confused and inconvenienced students. Conclusively, the prearrangement, the various programs, and the general execution of the freshmen orientation were among the main points of contention.
Prearrangement of the Orientation
Intervention of School
The school’s intervention in organizing the orientation accounts for why the freshmen orientation was not in favor of the students. The trouble started early even before the plans for the orientation began to be discussed. Due to its belated election, Gonggam Plus was not able to devote time on the freshmen orientation on time; “When it was time to take over as the Student Council, I was still in the election campaign,” Choi elaborated. Since it is compulsory for the Student Council to negotiate about plans for the freshmen orientation with the school, the Office of Student Affairs said that most parts of the orientation of 2014 were already negotiated and virtually decided between the Office and the previous Student Council, Chungchoon Story. What was purportedly decided was that the orientation will be for two days.
However, Choi stressed that when he asked Chungchoon Story, they confirmed to him that there was no definite decision made about the 2014 orientation, and only reviews and comments about the 2013 orientation were given to the Office. Gonggam Plus and the Office tried to minimize the dispute between them. Gonggam Plus, hence, conducted a survey on 855 students and received the obvious results that 92 percent of students thought the orientation is necessary, and 68 percent of them thought it should be three days long (see Survey A). Enforcing the trip as a whole school event over two days and making it productive was almost doing the impossible. Yet, the Office refused to agree on a three-day trip, demanding other proposals. In the end, nonetheless, the Office rejected the renewed proposal for three-day training because of safety issues and continued to insist on a two-day schedule. Discussions continued but no real progress was made.
Choi said, in the meeting with the Office, that “the Office of Student Affairs has no intention of listening to the Student Council. The director and vice-director are making dogmatic decisions. Also, there is an attitude of disregard towards the Student Council, with the Council being treated as unequally to the Office.” Choi said two of the school staff members allegedly replied, “Although we are not directors, our positions still allow us control over you. If you continue to be stubborn and not listen to what we say, we may have to withhold your budget of 130 million won.” Choi wrote on Gwangjang, “the Student Council felt that it had its autonomy violated.” According to him, the meeting between the Student Council and Lee Kun, the president of UOS, was nullified, and a couple of orientation proposals were overlooked. He added on by saying that the director of Student Welfare Committee clarified his position by saying, “The stance that this year’s orientation must be the responsibility of the Student Council and run for two days will not change, for it is the President Lee’s mandate.” In The UOS Times interview, Choi said that plans for the orientation “were already determined by President Lee” as well. Not willing to financially burden students by refusing the budget offered by the school, the Student Council agreed to the two-day trip.
The Expensive Fee of the Orientation
The expensive fee of the orientation, on top of this issue, aroused negative comments from students. This year, the orientation participation fee was 35,000 won; considering that 2013 free was ranging up to 35,000 when the 2013 orientation was for three days, this year’s two-day fee is expensive. At UOS, it is customary for only senior students to pay the orientation fee, so the financial pressure on them was not negligible. Thus, when the Audit Committee transparently publicized the expenditures for the orientation, countless students were disturbed by the 12 million won spent on the booking of entertainers Love Cubic (dancers) and Baechigi (rappers).
According to Choi, the Central Execution Committee made a decision to create the fee 35,000 won because the outcome of the public bidding was unpredictable, for the location UOS was looking for was a large resort which is capable of accommodating approximately 2,600 students. When the location was bid on, 10 million won was in surplus, so all of the colleges’ representatives and the Student Council agreed to invite entertainers. He added on by saying, “some may not know, but in 2011, the orientation was organized by the Student Council and the whole school went on the trip together. That year, celebrities, Baechigi in fact, was invited as well. I was therefore following that tradition to invite a celebrity, and thought it was only natural to do so.” Choi also showed disbelief when he found out that many students were fervently denouncing this decision; his original intention was for students to enjoy an exciting night, especially with a large number of students participating at once.
Regardless of the outcome of the performance, saying that celebrities were invited because it was done so in 2011 and it was okay at that time is not a good enough reason. In 2011, it may have been enjoyable and welcomed by most students, but this year, students were sensitive to the high participation fee. As the Student Council already knew and often spoke of on Gwangjang, UOS has been facing financial difficulties and the Student Council is not an exception. A one-sided and unwarranted decision of the Student Council to spend a significant amount of the high fee on performers was fairly monopolistic.
The programs prepared for the freshmen did not do their jobs to present memorable and advantageous experience to freshmen as their first event of UOS. Looking at Survey C, one can see that among the 27 percent who did not like the freshmen orientations, 34 percent reasoned their decision by saying that the programs did not interest them. Also, those who answered “yes” to whether it is necessary thought enjoying the prepared program was the last reason to think so. Not only were the programs disappointing, but they also were meaninglessly demanding which exhausted students, the questionnaire by The UOS Times revealed. All in all, they who had negative opinions about the freshmen orientation confirmed that it had uninteresting and unfulfilling programs.
Tight and Problematic Schedule
First problem of the freshmen orientation of 2014 was the extremely tight while insubstantial schedule; the programs did not reflect freshmen’s wishes to have meaningful and worthwhile time. There were mainly three parts to the orientation; the central stage, the time for colleges, and the time for departments. The central stage is directed by the Student Council, and the rest of the programs are left to the care of each individual college and department. Therefore, Choi had to give all three ? the Student Council, the colleges, and the departments ? equal time to make the best use of the orientation. They would not compromise on time distribution because it was the best opportunity for those three to carry out their promotions to about 2,600 students at the orientation. As a result, the schedule became compact and inflexible.
To start, there was an issue regarding the central stage. Songs chosen by R.A.H (a Central dance Club of UOS) overlapped with those of Love Cubic, thus resulting in the cancellation of R.A.H’s entire appearance. In addition, while Tru-Hz (a Central African-American Club of UOS) was singing on stage, the staff of the Student Council escorted several departments out of the stadium which was reviewed as “unsightly” and “erroneous.” In the end, not only the freshmen did not get a chance to see dances of R.A.H, a renowned club, but also a few hundred of them were removed from the stadium in the middle of singing of Tru-Hz.
Looking from another perspective, a considerable number of students thought that “the central stage was too long,” so “there were a lack of student-oriented programs,” which is another problem. It is important to see the central clubs, but each of their show time was too long, and entertainers’ stage was unnecessary. A poll done by The UOS Times showed that only 4 percent of students went to the orientation to see the central stage (see Survey C). Park, a freshman, also agreed saying, “it was good to see what kind of central clubs exist at the school. Nevertheless, the stage was so long that it bored freshmen like me. Every stage looked the same after a short while. Each club’s performance was unnecessarily long; shorter yet appealing performances would have been better.”
Considering whom the freshmen orientations are for, the obvious yet often forgotten, freshmen, listening to their voices is of key importance. It was a popular opinion of the public that while the length of central stage was needlessly long, the time for colleges and departments was too short. It was impractical to enforce all the activities without thinking of efficiency and freshmen’s point of view. As a result, it turned out that the actual purpose of fraternity, conditions of students, and Tru-Hz’s and R.A.H’s dignity were neglected just to “complete” the programs. Different measures need be sought by the one in charge next year. Serious contemplation on the meaning of “completing” the programs will improve such problem.
Lack of Programs Promoting Social Intercourse
Another problem was short time for students to interact with each other. It is a fact that Survey B shows a 65 percent satisfaction rate with the orientation. However, it is also a fact that 77 percent of them were freshmen. Experiencing the first training as newcomers, they might not think that having social intercourse at the orientation with their seniors is not as important; however, experienced students begged to differ. One anonymous student from our questionnaire said, “the programs made me feel like I wasted time because they were not productive. It was a pain to spend time among strangers in an awkward atmosphere. I believe if there were profitable programs which can help freshmen adjust to the university life and allow them to become closer to senior students more quickly it would have been a better freshmen orientation.”
Jun and Seon also unanimously expressed their opinions about this strongly in the interviews; they both complained that they did not get to even see the freshmen. The programs completely segregated senior students from freshmen. Seon asserted, “freshmen have no idea what they can miss out on when they do not get to interact with senior students. I suffered the same difficulty when I was trying to apply for a double major. I struggled due to a lack of accurate and helpful suggestions from reliable senior students. Hence, I went to the orientation just to help the freshmen, but I do not feel close enough to any of them to actually help them out in times of struggle. I do not go to department rooms at all, so the orientation was practically my only chance of getting to know them, but I do not think I achieved my purpose at all.” Survey A, B, and C also showed that the the majority of students considered fraternity as the primary purpose of the orientation. In conclusion, it is gravely important to secure time for freshmen and senior students to communicate. In 2014, it seems that this goal was far from being achieved.
Park also displayed disappointment regarding this matter: “I am interested in many activities such as working for the press or joining English drama clubs. I expected to get information about them, but I could not get any. The atmosphere of the orientation was too shallow to even ask for anything. I at least expected to learn basic information about my department that I could not find online, but I did not get anything about that, either.” She did get information from her peers on UOS press and E.D.R.A., an existing English drama club, but it was not useful in helping her to make up her mind. Overall, she thought that the programs made by the college and departments did not promote interaction among freshmen and senior students.
The freshmen orientation should be a golden opportunity for students to become friends so that they can get useful information of UOS and depend on each other in times of need. It seems that all three, the Student Council, colleges, and departments think enforcement of their own plans is of the utmost importance and the things that freshmen want can be laid aside. If we as students of UOS want to plan a meaningful and memorable freshmen orientation, it is advisable to listen to student voices such as these and make major changes to the programs. It is true how Choi explained for the concrete programs of the orientation; they have become a “tradition,” which has made them hard to reform. However, it seems that the school considers the orientation as an excuse for students to fool around without any accomplishments, which is the ostensible reason the school put limits to the orientation. It is the time to dare and transform the “tradition”; it is important to be enlightened as to why the freshmen orientation is called the “freshmen” orientation, and impress a positive image on freshmen of our university.
Students of UOS are gathered at the Main Auditorium before leaving for the freshmen orientation
Problem of Execution: Miscommunication
Adding fuel to the fire, miscommunications among students and the Student Council aroused more negative voices among students than the Council deserved. “It cannot be helped that the Student Council has become the main target of all the blame; after all, the whole freshmen orientation was orchestrated by the Student Council,” Jun acknowledged. For instance, the students were on a standby on the buses uninformed for as much as an hour and a half. This was because the resort did not check out the previous customers by the time the UOS students arrived. Despite this truth, because the Student Council decided not to communicate with students, their angers were directed to it.
Students of UOS said, “communication among the Student Council, student representatives of colleges and departments, and the volunteer helpers was inadequate. The volunteer helper training was not done properly, so they were very negligent at their jobs” and “students at the training were out of control. Distribution of food and drinks was not orderly; colleges took commodities on their own without instructions,” and the staff members had no control over it. Also, there were times the students had to just wait because there were so many changes in plans, and instructions on upcoming programs or locations such as cafeterias changed by minutes. Forceful and unannounced execution of programs at 8 a.m. on the second day irritated students as well. The helpers did not actually “help” students but confused them instead. In time of tight schedule, the miscommunications among the staff members delayed the schedules more than it should. Those incidents provoked students to lose trust and faith in the Student Council in execution of school events. Students ended up denouncing the orientation, diminished of the satisfaction they could have.
This year, it was quite true that prior circumstances surrounding the belated election and last year’s unfortunate accident prevented the orientation from being purposeful and enjoyable to many students, especially to freshmen. Many problems that students had strong negative opinions about were probably caused by representatives of students, as discussed at length above. The causes of those problems were the shortened time of the orientation that the Office of Student Affairs demanded. Nonetheless, management in the whole affair was immature which caused a stir among students. As a result, the public of UOS began to lose faith and trust in the Student Council due to continuous errors in their role as representatives of students, beginning with their mischief at the freshmen orientation.
Regardless, the freshmen orientation of 2014 is already over. Learning from this year’s mistakes, the freshmen orientation of next year should be an event from which every student can truly enjoy and benefit. This year’s freshmen orientation was a trip full of experiments and new changes. It, of course, stumbled considerably. Harsh criticism is not to blame what has been done but to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. It must be taken as a valuable precedent in order to improve the tradition of the freshmen orientation in the future. The freshmen orientation is newcomers’ very first encounter with the school, which they will attend for many years. Stepping on the right foot will be a positive beginning to smooth and satisfactory school life.