The school recently announced that it will no longer be hosting a multicultural student orientation (MSO) for incoming freshmen.
When we consider the diversity that Knox promotes in its One Community, this move is a great start to integrating the various facets of the student body. Though some may argue that the move takes away opportunities and programs for students of color, we hope that it’ll make diversity training more accessible for all students and better represent other social identities, such as sexuality, class, religion, nationality, ability, etc.
In order to be successful, however, the change must focus on three things: It should be better representative and inclusive of the student body, encourage more dialogue outside of orientation week and hold everyone responsible for respecting different social identities. Topics that were previously underrepresented in both MSO and NSO include ableism and mental health, but the merge should allow those topics to have a greater presence.
With this new orientation program, we hope to see better dialogues and training on diversity that will challenge incoming students to think outside of what high school taught them. It’ll stop teaching students of color “what to expect” from their classmates and will hold everyone accountable for being open-minded on campus. Bringing students together into a single orientation will bridge the “us” and “them” that was evident as the multicultural students were separated from their supposedly “not-as-cultural” counterparts.
We realize this is easier said than done, and merging MSO with New Student Orientation (NSO) will introduce new problems to be addressed.
As the students that attend MSO come from different backgrounds, the administration and orientation leaders must be responsible for more productive dialogue. There has to be a greater focus on respect, and there can be no room for ignorance.
Rather than only hearing from the past-labeled “multicultural” and “regular” perspectives, the students can hear from one another and give feedback based on their experiences before entering college. For those who come from less diverse communities, this will give them the opportunity to interact with other students in an academic setting before stepping foot in a classroom.
As a result of meaningful dialogue, students will be able to confront their privilege as they interact with students from different backgrounds. Since orientation groups are randomly selected, they’ll be placed with people who they may not otherwise spend time with, and will see the different backgrounds of students who attend Knox.
This opportunity will allow students to begin discussion before their first year preceptorial even begins. Even if they don’t participate in every orientation activity, they’ll be familiar with phrases such as privilege, appropriation and inclusivity. Hopefully their experiences outside the classroom will be reflected in the discussions they will have with professors and colleagues inside the classroom.
With changes to the program, we hope to welcome new Knox students with open arms, minds and spirits. As we see two separate programs converge to be more inclusive, we can now, truly, boost a Multicultural Student Orientation.
Welcome to college.