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New Pre-Orientation Program Will Help Marginalized Students

After a long push for a bridge program to ease the transition to Harvard for freshmen coming from under-resourced schools and first-generation and low-income backgrounds, the College announced a pre-orientation program for students coming from marginalized communities. This program will run from August 23 to August 26 and is part of a two-year pilot program. It has been named the First-Year Retreat and Experience, and it will be limited to 100 students.

While we think this is a step in the right direction, we believe Harvard is lagging behind in its pursuit of helping under-resourced students adjust to college life in a well-managed, comprehensive, and enjoyable way. Harvard prides itself on the diversity of students. While efforts to accept students from marginalized backgrounds are getting better, there is not enough support once they arrive here.

We’ve seen plenty of other colleges take steps to bridge the gap for incoming freshmen from marginalized communities. Yale offers a bridge program that focuses on issues of race and on aiding racially marginalized groups, particularly students of color, in the transition to college. Called “Cultural Connections,” it consists of an extensive set of activities that include panels by faculty on academic expectations, and conversations with faculty members with expertise in the areas of ethnicity, nationality, and race. Furthermore, it also helps bridge the gap students in these marginalized communities face by familiarizing them with financial, academic, and social resources that can help them throughout their first year.

As another example, Wesleyan has a pre-orientation program dedicated to another under-resourced group: first-generation college students. The program allows participants to hear from current first-generation students, build up study techniques, learn about resources available to them at Wesleyan, and partake in fun activities to build community. Indeed, Harvard’s peers are ahead of us. The creation of FYRE is step in the right direction to remedying this.

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Nevertheless, we are concerned that the program will conflict with other programs for new students that are vital in helping all students form a community. We encourage student organizers and the Freshman Dean’s Office and soon-to-be-created Dean of Students Office to make their best efforts to help students have the opportunity to engage in other pre-orientation programs in addition to FYRE. Students should not have to choose between a bridge program and another pre-orientation opportunity; they should be able to have both.

Furthermore, Harvard should be highly appreciative of the students who put so much time into conceiving and organizing FYRE. However, we hope that the administration will take more responsibility in shifting the burden off of students. Other schools have programs to help transition students over the entire summer. Harvard is only offering students four days. There is no way that the educational gap can be bridged in such a short amount of time. We hope there are efforts to expand FYRE in the future to look more like other examples that have already been set.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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