Campus Beat Reporter
On April 22, the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Orientation Programs & Parents Services announced on its website that the two-day freshman and one-day transfer orientations would be moved online. The Bottom Line spoke with Tricia Rascon, director of orientation programs, regarding the implications of this change
Rascon began the interview by speaking about the difficulties of moving online. “It was challenging at first for the orientation team to wrap our minds around the concept of going entirely online, and it was an emotional decision as well.” Rascon knows how excited the orientation staff was for the summer, and it was disappointing to not be able to do this work on campus.
When asked about whether or not the orientation program would have to hire more staff, Rascon said, “Fortunately, we will be able to run an online orientation program with the same number of student staff we originally hired and have been training since the start of spring quarter.”
With the transition to online, those without reliable technology may suffer. Rascon acknowledged this in her interview. “We understand that students may face obstacles in participating. We will have an alternative online orientation module for freshmen and transfer that will open after the live virtual sessions have finished. This module will be self-paced, and students can return to it as many times as they need or want.”
With orientation meetings, parents are not allowed in the room due to students’ rights to privacy as per the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). “It is crucial that even in an online setting, where students are likely participating at home with family members nearby, their right to academic privacy is still being upheld,” said Rascon.
Normally during in-person sessions, students on the orientation team weren’t able to take summer courses due to how inflexible their work schedules were. However, Rascon mentioned, “Now that we are moving online and session A classes will be remote learning, staffers have the ability to take courses that are offered asynchronously.”
Rascon and her orientation team of administrators plan to be flexible with students and staff who cannot commit to the time period. “We will be flexible with students as they navigate participating online and maintaining commitments at home or managing technical difficulties.
The amount of student concern and backlash has been small, mentioned Rascon. “I understand that it’s still early in the process, however (our reservations system opens on May 15). As an orientation team, we are prepared to pivot and make changes based on student needs. We’re committed to giving students the best experience possible under these circumstances.”
Rascon ended the interview with some Gaucho pride and hope for the future. “As a former Gaucho myself, I know our campus community is special. While having to greet incoming students and their families virtually is not ideal, I’m confident that our team can still convey the spirit, energy, and academic excellence of UCSB that drew students to our campus.”