Freshman orientation sees additions, tweaks

Freshmen arriving on campus today will participate in an updated freshman orientation program, which administrators say will familiarize new students with Yale’s resources and the city of New Haven.

Orientation this fall will include mandatory “communication and consent” workshops on sexual misconduct prevention, reformulated workshops on health and sexuality, and revamped events encouraging freshmen to explore the Elm City and the arts at Yale, Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said in a Wednesday email. Administrators also made technical improvements to several traditional Yale freshmen orientation events, such as the Kaleidoscope performance on diversity and freshman keynote address, to help them “run more smoothly and effectively,” he said.

The communication and consent workshops, though new to orientation, were first introduced to the class of 2015 last January as part of the University’s efforts to improve its handling of sexual misconduct following complaints that Yale harbored a hostile sexual environment. The workshops are designed to examine common communication patterns and address pressure in social situations to prevent unwanted sexual interactions.

Melanie Boyd ’90, assistant dean of student affairs, said the sessions — titled “The Myth of Miscommunication” — were “very successful” when they debuted and have not undergone major changes. Freshmen interviewed in January had mixed feelings about the workshops, but Natalie Khosla ’14, a communication and consent educator, said she thinks this fall’s workshops will be engaging and practical.

“[The workshops are] not just like the ‘sex police’ who’s telling people to stop, to refrain, to just change their lifestyle entirely,” Khosla said. “It’s from the root … explaining to people that you don’t need to not do this and not do that in order to have a better sexual culture at Yale.”

The workshops will run during the weekend of Sept. 1-2 and be administered to small groups of freshmen by communication and consent educators assigned to each residential college, Khosla said. Yale’s student staff of Community Health Educators will also give revamped mandatory health and sexuality workshops, aimed at helping students practice self-care and mutual respect.

In addition to reworking some of its mandatory orientation programs, Yale also tweaked several of its optional activities.

Susan Cahan, associate dean for the arts, said last year’s trial “Explore the Arts” program has been reformatted to include group trips led by freshman counselors to music and dance performances on campus. The program aims to introduce new freshmen to the “tip of the iceberg” of arts resources at Yale, she said, and will include a reception at the Yale University Art Gallery.

Organizers have also revamped the “Discover New Haven” freshman challenge, which encourages freshmen to explore the Elm City using a smartphone application.

“We wanted to design an orientation to the city that was interactive, informative and fun,” said Lauren Zucker, director of New Haven Affairs for the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, which partnered with Yale to organize the event. “Discover New Haven will introduce the incoming class to some of the city’s unique and diverse offerings.”

Freshman orientation begins Aug. 24 and runs through Sept. 8.

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