Princeton pilots new social justice-based orientation program

This fall, Princeton University will launch a pilot of its new social justice–based freshman orientation program.

In the past, Princeton has offered two optional orientation programs to incoming freshmen: Outdoor Action (OA) and Community Action (CA). In each five-day program, participants are split into small groups and spend the week bonding as they pursued various goals. As their names suggest, OA participants engage in outdoor activities, while CA participants engage in community service.

This year, the university is implementing a new program known as “Dialogue and Difference in Action (DDA),” and 40 students have signed up to participate in the pilot program at the Garrison Institute, a retreat center in Garrison, New York “known for its powerfully contemplative environment.”

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According to The Daily Princetonian, DDA will differ from OA and CA in that students will “work closely with staff from Princeton’s Women*s Center, LGBT Center, and the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding.” In OA and CA, conversely, participants only interact with each other and their upperclassmen mentors.

DDA was created as a collaborative effort between these three centers, Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun, and LaTanya Buck, the newly appointed Dean for Diversity and Inclusion.

“Students will learn how to navigate and engage in what I would call challenging discussions,” Buck explained, noting that the group will engage in activities focused on exploring their individual identities.

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Arlene Gamio Cuervo ‘18, one of the eight upperclassmen “co-facilitators” to the program, added that it is particularly important to engage incoming students with multiple marginalized identities, such as low-income queer people of color.

“If you start the conversation as soon as they get on campus, it creates ripple effects on how ‘the Princeton experience’ is constructed,” Cuervo asserted. “We have to catch them early, in other terms.”

Stephen Chao ‘19, another DDA co-facilitator, also praised the program, anticipating that it will be “even more effective” at fostering the intimate bonding experience that OA and CA aim for, “because it deliberately focuses on issues of identity and social justice on campus.”

The Princetonian reported that several of Princeton’s peer institutions—including Harvard University, Yale University, and Columbia University—have already instituted similar programs.