8 AM in Main Building’s front hall. Students, faculty and staff all wearing –more or less customized—black Antioch t-shirts are running around carrying giant ice cube packs, last-minute flyers, and signs bearing the words: Orientation This Way. Anticipation is palpable; the number of students who decided to enrol at Antioch “despite it all” is a source of amazement to many. “They are welcomed with open arms, we want to make them feel we are unified as a student body”, commented Shea Witzberger, 2nd Year Student part of the Orientation Team. Few had predicted such a large turnout, and 20 supplemental welcome packages had to be prepared at the last minute. In fact, said Angie Glukhov, Director of Admissions, the numbers had changed every day up to the very last hours; “We got a student who called us yesterday telling us they were coming today”.
This unexpectedly large incoming first year class—75 according to the most recent count– could hardly have been expected when the news of Antioch’s suspension of operations came out in June. “We tried to contact students immediately, but it was a difficult process”, recalled Glukhov. Dealing with bewildered, shocked or angry prospective students, parents, and high school guidance counsellors is a task that the Admissions/Office of Transition staff has had to face heads on this summer, being the primary contact for all complaints and inquiries.
Regardless, the Orientation committee eventually resumed the task it had started in December. “We had been ahead of schedule, but when the announcement broke out we stopped in our tracks for a while”, commented Eli Nettles, Chair of the Orientation Committee. A few accommodations had to be made to adapt to the situation. Orientation was moved from the South Gym to Main Building in order to make it more comfortable to a shrunken number of incoming students. For the most part, however, the pre-unravelling plans—such as the goodies bags– were kept in place.
Last year’s Orientation was soon re-baptized “Disorientation” in reference to the overwhelming amount of information that was poured on the incoming first years at the time. Yet this year, the planning seemed to be lighter. “It was very important to me for students to have free time to breathe in between the Orientation activities”, emphasized Nettles. Moreover, several traditional parts of the orientation schedule, such as the math and writing evaluations or the introduction to co-op communities, have been cancelled due to the current situation of the college.
Community Government’s involvement in Orientation has been greater than in previous years. “We originally decided to take on more work because we thought we would have more time in the summer with no students on campus”, explained Community Manager Chelsea Martens, “of course with the June announcement it didn’t turn out to be that way”. Nonetheless, CG remained an integral part of the Orientation Committee; prompted by Counselling Center Director Linda Sattem, they organized the distribution of Antioch canvas bags containing notably the new and updated Survival Guide. “We aimed to provide new students with an introduction to Antioch on a more personal level”, stressed Martens, “We also wanted to make sure we bridged the infamous gap between first years and upperclassmen”.
Although the decisive involvement of first year students at the morning session of the Cincinnati Board of Trustees meeting of the 25th was a cause of admiration to the rest of the Antioch Community, it was not encouraged by the Orientation Committee. Rory Adams-Cheatham, Community Events Managers recalls that proposals to include a trip to the Cincinnati meeting and a potluck with alumni to the orientation schedule were rejected by the committee. “There was concern that incoming students would feel pressured to get involved in the efforts to save Antioch” explained Adams-Cheatham. The fact that despite having a full-packed activity scheduled on Saturday, as many first years spontaneously chose to wake up at dawn to tell the BOT how they felt about Antioch is testimonial to the success of the Orientation team in introducing the students to their new college.