Black, Hispanic students attend exclusive early orientations

Grand Valley State University recently completed its inaugural “Black Excellence Orientation” reserved exclusively for “first-year African American students.”

According to an online description of the program, the “three-day orientation is designed specifically for students who identify as Black/African American,” allowing them “opportunities to connect with fellow students, faculty, and staff” while gaining “tools for navigating many campus community resources.”

Specifically, the inaugural offering of the orientation featured “workshops on campus exploration, cultural identity, and more,” as well as bus trips to explore local communities.

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The event took place in advance of the school’s regular orientation, which began on August 23, and GVSU “arranged an early move-in” on August 20 for participating students who reside in on-campus housing.

Members of the Iota Epsilon Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity assisted with the move-in process, tweeting a picture depicting several members posing in a dorm room.

While this is the first year that GVSU has offered the Black Excellence Orientation, the school has historically offered a “Laker Familia Orientation” exclusively for students of “Latino/a” heritage,” which likewise occurs prior to the general orientation program.

Both programs are run by GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, whose assistant director, Juanita Davis, told Campus Reform that participants in the Black Excellence Orientation were also invited “to print out their schedules and have a student orientation leader help them find their classes.”

In addition, “the students explored the many campus resources available that would be instrumental in their success at Grand Valley,” she added, elaborating that “some of the offices included the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Center for Women and Gender Equity, the LGBTQ Center, the Student Academic Success Center, the Dean of Students Office, Financial Aid, and the Counseling Center.”

[RELATED: Princeton pilots new social justice based orientation program]

In addition to the special orientation programs for black and Hispanic students, the OMA also offers a “Conversations of Color” program, which provides students with a “safer space” to talk about issues like “Black stereotypes in TV” and “the fear of Muslim terrorism.”

Students can also attend various celebrations dedicated to people of color after freshmen orientation week is over—such as the Hispanic Heritage Celebration and an annual Pow Wow event—and can even apply for “scholarships” to offset the cost of attending the 2018 White Privilege Conference.

press release on the school’s website notes that roughly 125 students participated in the inaugural event, while 109 students participated in the corresponding Laker Familia orientation—an all-time high for that program.

UPDATE: Following publication of this article, GVSU provided an additional statement to Campus Reform asserting that the pre-orientation programs are open to all first-year and transfer students, regardless of race [all subsequent emphasis from original].

"This was the first year GVSU hosted a Black Excellence Orientation, as an optional transition event prior to the first week of classes. All new first year and transfer students were able to participate," the statement asserted. "Culturally relevant programming focused on support for our new African American students, but provided benefits to all new students.

"Inclusion and equity are core values at GVSU and we modeled the program after similar programs at universities across the country," the school added. "These efforts, while open to all, are particularly important given the disproportionately low enrollment and graduation rates of Black students nationally. Participation is optional. All new students also participate in summer orientations, where class registration and other activities take place.”

Follow the authors of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski and @Toni_Airaksinen