Feeling Disoriented, Take Two

VP Student Life’s Orientation Efforts Subject of Debate for Fellow Councillors

Concordia students on Reggie’s terrace during Winter Orientation’s kick-off event. Photo Erin Sparks

If you were judging by the report that followed, Concordia’s fall Orientation went by, for the most part, without a hitch. Events were well-attended and plans were made in advance. For all intents and purposes, it was a hit.

In reality, things weren’t so flawless. Although Orientation wasn’t a complete bust, there were slip-ups. There were complications concerning the concert’s headlining band, and the event’s promotion was delayed.

Although the final numbers put this fall’s Orientation as $70,000 under budget, several Concordia Student Union councillors have been vocal about the fact that a few things could have, and maybe should have, been done differently.

Now, with winter Orientation just kicking off, it’s Take Two for VP Student Life Alexis Suzuki, who is tasked with planning and executing the two-week event.

To do so, she has been allotted over $60,000 of the CSU’s annual budget.

Reaction to the Report

Although it is not specifically stated in the CSU’s bylaws, the VP Student Life is traditionally expected to submit a post-mortem Orientation report to council, outlining what went well and what went wrong during Orientation.

This year, the report filed by Suzuki was two months late, and did not meet the expectations of multiple councillors.

“I feel like it’s this rosy portrayal of Orientation—reading it, you wouldn’t know that there was no headliner at the concert,” said councillor Chad Walcott.

“You wouldn’t know that there was no advertising at all until very late. In fact, it would seem like it was the best Orientation that we ever had—which is unfortunately not the case.”

Although the Orientation had its hiccups, Suzuki says that its flaws were not the result of poor preparation, but rather, inadequate training.

“There’s just so much [to do] and it’s not written down anywhere,” she said. “So it makes it very difficult unless you have somebody who is really willing to make sure that your training is really well done.”

Laura Glover, last year’s VP Student Life, was hired by the Dean of Students Office to act as a liaison between student groups and the university during the summer. Although the two had some official training hours, Glover said Suzuki didn’t take her up on her offers of guidance.

“I had ten office hours per week devoted to assisting Orientation and I did say explicitly that if there was anything that [Suzuki] needed, or that she felt that she wasn’t properly prepared for, then I was willing to help,” said Glover, who didn’t agree with Suzuki’s criticism of inadequate training.

Glover said that, although the initiative was taken on her part to reach out and offer assistance, emails went unanswered and, although it was possible Suzuki felt unprepared, it shouldn’t have been due to a lack of resources.

Although Suzuki supposedly had Glover’s offer to help facilitate the transition, the only document provided to the incoming VP Student Life is the post-mortem report from the previous year.

What the document must contain isn’t explicitly stated, but it is commonly understood to serve as an overall view of how the previous year’s Orientation festivities went.

Last year, Glover included a timeline complete with the timing of when certain amenities should be booked and by what date various things ought to be ordered.

But Suzuki said that details, like how things work in terms of booking, should have been included but were not.

“If questions are asked, we do our best to answer them; but if questions aren’t asked, you know, it’s really difficult to understand what somebody needs from you,” said Glover.

Post-Post-Mortem Solutions

When Suzuki’s post-mortem Orientation report was presented to CSU council, it was met with criticism from a variety of councillors.
“It didn’t seem that the post-mortem produced this year was really critical of Orientation at all,” said Glover.

Councillor Melissa-Kate Wheeler agreed, citing discrepancies between what actually happened during Orientation and what was reported in the document.

Suzuki, however, doesn’t believe the post-mortem report should be a necessity, saying that she doesn’t “really know what a post-mortem report means to people anymore.”

She proposes that the report be replaced with a how-to guide, to be written in detail before summer, which could contain information such as the types of details she found lacking from Glover’s report.

“There isn’t a document like that at the CSU and I think it would really help a lot of people coordinating events at Concordia,” said Suzuki. “Especially Orientation, because it’s so huge and there’s so much for someone to take on.”

Although the document would not focus on the details of what happened during Orientation, it would still include an overview of the events, including some from winter Orientation in the proposed how-to guide.

“Now it’s kind of too late. In my opinion, she made the same mistakes this time around as she did for fall Orientation,” said Walcott. “[Suzuki] needs to swallow her pride a little bit and admit to the fact that Orientation was not perfect.”

Walcott and Wheeler both were hesitant to support the transition from traditional post-mortem report to how-to guide that would be built upon every Orientation by each consecutive VP.

“Interests of the student body will change, and it’s important that Orientation is current and responsive to the needs of students,” said Wheeler. “I don’t think that a how-to guide is necessarily going to be relevant, you know, for a significant number of years.

Suzuki stated that “for the most part” her executive team was on board with the change and said that continuing a tradition that “lacked purpose and doesn’t facilitate anything for anyone” should be reconsidered.

One of the criticisms both Wheeler and Walcott levied was that Suzuki projected that the guide would be prepared by June 1, 2013. The mandate of the current CSU executive ends May 31.

“It wasn’t a huge deal to begin with,” said Wheeler. “But the fact that we have been consistently asking [Suzuki] to produce a better report all year before writing this how-to guide, and she has refused to do it, has made me not support this at all.”