Outdoor Emory Organization (OEO) is facing financial difficulties and loss of membership as a result of new pre-orientation move-in policies this year, OEO Treasurer Davis Burgess said.
This fall, early move-in allowances were restricted to orientation leaders, student athletes and international students with limited flight and visa options.
OEO traditionally has incoming freshmen move in early to go on pre-orientation outdoor trips, OEO President Mary Vess said.
This year, 140 students signed up to attend, but only about 100 of the usual 200 participants actually participated. These last-minute drop-outs, Vess said, has caused OEO to take financial hits because the organization pays for equipment in advance and the money cannot be reimbursed.
OEO pays for 30 percent of each individual’s trip, and students pay for the rest.
Move-in limitations have also resulted in time restrictions, Vess said. This weekend, students had two nights of camping and one day of activities whereas before there have usually been three nights of camping and two days of activities. As a result, she said that OEO will not be sponsoring as many big trips as it has in previous years.
OEO’s annual pre-orientation trips were designed to help freshmen get to know each other prior to coming on campus, Vess said. She said that the trips helped make Orientation Week more relaxed because students already knew a handful of peers.
The laid-back environment is lost for OEO trips, Vess said, as many students spent this year’s trip stressing about homework, buying books, working out schedules and even getting back to school on time.
“A lot of people dropped out because they got sick, were overwhelmed by schoolwork or just decided they couldn’t go,” Vess said. “To have people moving in and then packing up again to go on a trip is very overwhelming.”
Burgess said the decrease in numbers does affect OEO, but the organization hopes to maintain the same number of trips as it has always offered.
“I doubt we’re going to have much expansion this year in the amounts or types of trips we can offer,” Burgess said. “We won’t have as much freedom to rent different types of gear, however this will not affect the number of trips we send out.”
Last spring, the University installed new restrictions in order to lower spending and create a unifying move-in experience for students when the average of 1,500 early student arrivals became unmanageable. The new policy has made move-in run seamlessly this year, according to director of Residence Life Andy Wilson.
There are benefits to scheduling OEO trips after Orientation Week, Wilson said. He said that providing these activities offers freshmen an outlet and allows them to socialize somewhere other than Eagle Row. He also said that moving OEO trips back opens up opportunities to freshmen who may not have had them before.
“It creates a culture where all students are welcomed at once,” Wilson said. “International students, who make up 13 percent of the freshmen class, were never able to go on OEO trips before.”
Burgess said members of OEO feels like they have been treated unfairly.
“We feel somewhat hurt that other groups did get to move in early when the statement was that no orientation groups were allowed to move in,” Burgess said. “We’d love to have a little more transparency; if [the University] is going to let other groups move in early, just tell us.”
Vess said OEO has been looking for ways to increase participation, such as possibly allowing all students to participate in the orientation trips as well as with outreach opportunities.
OEO will also be working with alumni groups to help sustain the organization.
“Oxford and the Medical School both have outdoor clubs that we haven’t really worked with in the past,” Vess said. “We are starting to reach out beyond the College.”
—Contact Alice Chen