CalSO to be replaced with new weeklong Golden Bear Orientation

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Cal Student Orientation will no longer serve as the introductory program welcoming students to UC Berkeley, starting in 2017.

CalSO will be replaced with a new program called Golden Bear Orientation, in which the new student class will attend a mandatory week-long orientation right before school resumes for the fall 2017 semester, according to Chrissy Roth-Francis, director of the campus’s New Student Services division, who made the announcement at an ASUC Senate meeting Wednesday night.

“(The shift to Golden Bear Orientation) is fundamental philosophical change for our campus,” Roth-Francis said at the meeting.

Instead of bringing students to campus in “small cohorts,” the new program format will allow the campus to introduce new students to the campus as a whole population, Roth-Francis said at the meeting. She added that although CalSO is an amazing program, she is aware that it is not equitable or accessible to all students.

“We know that our out-of-states have significantly more bills to pay getting here,” Roth-Francis said at the meeting. “We know some students are too busy during the summer to make it.”

The orientation will start Aug. 16, 2017, with the move-in date scheduled two days before the start. All undergraduate students, including transfer and international students, are mandated to attend the orientation.

UC Berkeley senior and former CalSO leader Noah Gardner said it is important to think about some of the students excluded — including those unable to afford it and underrepresented minorities — from CalSO in its current form because of its scheduling weeks or months before the first day of school. He said the people at CalSO are largely those able to expend the resources to make the trip there.

“Making the program the week before school and making that a mandatory program, you’re going to really increase people being exposed to diverse perspectives, in a way CalSO was never really able to,” Gardner said.

With a new student information system being rolled out by the fall, the campus no longer needs to rely on CalSO being scheduled earlier in the summer to help students register for classes, Roth-Francis said.

New Student Services will institute a new staffing structure in its division to account for the larger number of students who will attend orientation. Though CalSO most recently staffed about 40 leaders, Golden Bear Orientation is expected to be hosted by 1,000 volunteer orientation leaders, 60 mentors and six coordinators.

Roth-Francis added that she does not yet know how the new program will be funded. Currently, students pay a fee for CalSO, and the New Student Services is looking for ways to subsidize the cost, because this “campus is very expensive to run events on,” according to Roth-Francis.

“We really need to up the number of times the entire class sees each other,” said Roth-Francis at the meeting. “We want to build community and … a sense of school spirit.”

Contact Sujin Shin and Suhauna Hussain at [email protected].