Letters to the editor

To the Editor:

I recently read your article in the
Torch about “Improving the Retention
Rate.” There was a segment in there
with regards to New Student Orientation.

You stated, ” During Orientation,
incoming freshman spend two nights
in the dorms, take a tour of Manhattan,
attend a dance with a DJ and go on
a cruise. Incoming freshman are broken
up into groups and have to participate in
silly icebreaker games and come up with
cheers. You also stated that you” haven’t
met one student at St. John’s that has
actually enjoyed this experience.”

I beg to differ, because I have met
plenty. I was an Orientation Leader
for two years (Summer 2008 and
2009). In addition, I am also currently a
coordinator for the program.

First off, there are some errors with
the way you describe orientation. Seeing
as you are a Senior, you probably
weren’t aware of the changes in the
past two years. However, I would have
thought that you would have researched
more about the program if you were
going to include it in your article.

Students no longer take a tour of Manhattan,
instead they attend community service
and actually get to have a “taste” of
what they will experience during service
learning. After working about 15 orientations, I have never had one group who
didn’t get something out of it. In fact, I
was always extremely proud of how they
handled doing community service.

Also, students no longer have to attend
the DJ party, as it is not mandatory.

However, most students still do. Those
who do not enjoy the party are free to stay
in their rooms, play games in the lounges,
or simply just hang out within the Vincentian Walkway “The Strip.”

As far as the “silly” ice breakers and
cheers go? Yes, I agree that they are silly.
But let me ask you… who ever plays
“serious” icebreakers?

These are students fresh out of high
school who are from diverse backgrounds
and don’t know each other. There is nothing
wrong with a simple icebreaker to
make them smile. This is actually what
gets students to talk to you. I have had
many students not participate in icebreakers, but even though they found
it silly, they liked the fact that I had a
sense of humor and was secure enough
with myself to be silly and fun.

Also, Orientation students are split
up into groups depending on their majors.
Thus the people you meet may be your
future classmates, so it is benefi cial. It is also easier to keep track of students when they are divided.The cheers are also fun ways to show group spirit. Nobody is
forced to do it, and many students enjoy
it. Not only this, but people become close
to others in their group. Creating a cheer
together is just a nice way to creatively
come together and show off pride. Its
similar to establishing school pride.

Maybe your experience was not the
best, and I am sorry for that. But I enjoyed
all 16 orientations I was in. Why else
would so many people apply to become
O.L’s? Its because they enjoyed their Orientation.

In fact, in the current class, I
have 3 former students who told me that I
inspired them to become O.L’s.

Not only this, but after Orientation was
over, my students posted up pictures and
videos of their favorite moments. I still
receive notifi cations on Facebook about
it! I even had one student who wanted to
do it all over again. This is what keeps me
going and enthusiastic about the program.
Student Feedback!

Knowing that I have the power to make
someone feel comfortable about their current school is a euphoric experience.I’m
sure that this is why you would choose to
write in a paper…to empower and enlighten
others. It is worth the sleepless nights
(O.L’s get about 4 hours a night), the long
days, and dealing with the pessimism
of some students. Even better, is when I
STILL get stopped by students who tell
me about how great I was and how they
miss Orientation. I actually feel that Orientation excites students, and true “St.
John’s college-life” disappoints them.

As for your suggestion of a one day
Orientation? Remember that St. John’s
mission has 3 aspects (Catholic, Vincentian, Metropolitan) thus Orientation
encompasses all three parts. The Catholic
portion is covered on the fi rst day, as
the fi rst stop is campus ministry (after
lunch). The Vincentian portion is covered
during community service. The Metropolitan
aspect includes the boat ride in
the city. Remember that the University
prides itself on its mission.

Also, do you really think that students
would enjoy an Orientation that consisted
of “exploring the campus.” Many of them
have already come to numerous tours of
the school, and the campus isn’t too large.

So, without stormcards or an agenda
outlined for them, an Orientation of this
nature would serve no purpose. People
would basically just leave and not even
feel welcomed to the school. They would
never meet O.L’s or feel close to other students who they could use as a resource.

Granted, are there aspects that the students dislike? Of course.
Is the program perfect? No.
However, I felt that I needed to defend
the program that I have dedicated
3 1/2 years to. Because Orientation
has played a huge part of who I am on
campus. It has led me to discover that
working with students is an amazing
experience that I would never trade.

So as far as that portion of your article,…Im sorry, but I beg to differ

Cenia Santana,
Class of 2011