1st Year Orientation: A Triumphantly Fisted Watermelon

By James Fischbeck
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Small groups process content during RDPP orientation
Photo by Luke Brennan

Roughly 120 new students arrived to Antioch on September 1. Antioch students and faculty welcomed the first-years. Transition is the common theme of the day. After the students settled into their dorms, the integration process began. Students were shown a slide show about the history of Antioch and the Glen Helen Nature Preserve. It showed vintage photographs of simpler times at Antioch. The Antioch Campus was mostly open space until Antioch students planted trees in the late 1800s. At one time, Antioch had a football team and a baseball team; both teams are just fuzzy memories now. Before closing during the civil war, a special military division was stationed on campus for recruiting and teaching purposes. However, that didn’t last long because the military commanders were worried about continued contact with extreme members of the Antioch community.

After the history presentation, the president of the college addressed new students and parents about the updated curriculum and his plans for re-shaping Antioch college. President Lawry spoke of the new co-op communities in Washington D.C., New Mexico, and Southwestern Ohio. There are plans of building a new co-op community in Seattle and making it possible for independent students to utilize some of the same job opportunities that students of the old curriculum experienced. New progress is being made within the Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual freedom. Lawry also spoke of various community outreach programs that he hopes will make the King Center burst into bloom.

The academic and CG orientation was next, and the first-year class barely fit into McGregor 113. Firstyears were presented with the analogy of a three-legged stool, each leg representing Classroom, Co-op, and Community respectively. Janice Kinghorn explained more aspects of the newly revised and expanded core communities. Gaia and Cool are the two new core classes. Gaia involves environmental science, peace studies, and ecology. Cool is a mix of physics, psychology, and music. The sequencing calendar remains the same from last year, with an emphasis on completing a degree path in 4 years, not 5. Clustered classes are one of the fresh ideas being worked into the new curriculum. These groupings of classes are intended to reinforce interdisciplinary learning, but this is still a new, untested idea. Co-op communities are intended to make co-op arrangements less chaotic and more secure. Under the new plan, communities will spring up in various places in and around the United States that will serve as areas where students have more support in times of need. Coop communities are a good idea from a business point of view because they signify a long-term investment of human capital. By focusing on a few areas, employers will be willing to provide work for more students on a more consistent basis. Community at Antioch is the most important leg of the three-legged stool. Our CG managers made the point that community governance is shared governance. Students, faculty, and administration are coequal parts of the community. In theory, it means that everyone has equal voice. In practice, it means that the community is responsible for facilitating dialogue that will bring meaningful, progressive change.

The SOPP is unique to Antioch and embodies respect, communication, and consent. Several returning students participated in the SOPP orientation by performing skits and demonstrating proper handling of sexual devices. The most memorable moment of the orientation involved a duck and a watermelon. At first, it is shocking to see that Antioch is truly comfortable talking about sexual problems so bluntly, but the SOPP isn’t meant to stir up uncomfortable feelings among the student body. Most people at Antioch have a high emo t i o n a l inves tment in the SOPP. The SOPP was born to combat a culture of sexual violence and foster a new culture of positive, consensual s e x u a l i t y. The SOPP is challenging the status quo. In a self-sustaining community, sharing of knowledge and communicating clearly are the most important on an individual level. The SOPP doesn’t dictate that any types of sexual interaction are “wrong? or “immoral?, it just stresses that people should know and respect their boundaries and those of others. Even though it started from a women-related issue, it is never about gender because it applies to all. To quote Levi B., “It’s fucked up that sexual issues become women’s issues automatically?.

A new addition to the orientation process is a briefing on the RDPP, which stands for the Racial Discrimination Prevention Policy. It started as a similar policy to the SOPP and they have similar educational goals. The RDPP acknowledges that racism is a problem that often goes unaddressed in our larger society. You might find yourself asking the question “What is racism?? well racism or racial discrimination is defined as any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life. As you can see, racism is a complicated issue and the RDPP emphasizes that individuals are responsible for creating and maintaining an anti-racist environment around them. As with the SOPP, the RDPP stresses communication and conflict resolution over punitive action. The RDPP is an important addition to Antioch policy that will strengthen the community by encouraging education and examination of greater social issues both inside and outside of Antioch.

On behalf of the Antioch community, I would like to thank Amy Campbell, Beth Jones, Chelsea Martens, Anne Fletcher, Emily Dezurick-Badran, Luke Brennan, Sarah Buckingham, Tess Lindsay, Nicole Crouch-Diaz, Megg Fleck, Katie Archer, Travis Woodard, Keri Gregory, Phillip Wooten, Marissa Fisher, Josh Oliver, Corrine Frohlich, Megan Pergem, and everyone else that was involved in making first-year orientation memorable and enjoyable.