Following dissent over the announcement that Week of Welcome (WOW) activities will not be allowed off-campus in the fall, Coordinator of Orientation Programs and Assistant Director of Student Life and Leadership Andrene Kaiwi-Lenting released an apology letter on Wednesday, stating she hadn’t correctly understood the directive to shift more orientation activities on-campus.
In the letter sent to WOW Board, Team and leaders, Kaiwi-Lenting apologizes for the confusion, stating she, “misunderstood the shift to more campus activities as meaning an elimination of the off-campus portion of the WOW program.”
She clarifies that off-campus activities such as kayaking, hiking, community service and downtown visits — which were the crux of the uproar among WOW organizers — will continue to be allowed, in addition to more on-campus activities.
The confusion over possible WOW restrictions arose on Tuesday night when Kaiwi-Lenting told next year’s leaders they would be unable to take their groups off campus, except for the annual Day of Service.
“It was a surprise to most everyone,” political science sophomore Zach Antoyan said before the retraction letters were released. “Nobody knows what will happen yet.”
Following Tuesday night’s announcement, though, hundreds of students demonstrated their distaste with what was thought to be the final decision, turning to Facebook to argue against the change.
Mechanical engineering senior and WOW leader-in-training Andy Whitmyre created a “Save WOW!” Facebook event that night which gained more than 1,500 members in its first 24 hours.
Whitmyre called for a protest during UU Hour May 31, and several people posted about plans to write letters to university administrators.
“I’m just going to keep fighting for what I believe in and create the best experience for my wowies,” Whitmyre said early Wednesday before the letter was released.
Associated Students, Inc. President Kiyana Tabrizi said the decision to change WOW to a more on-campus program was the culmination of discussion between Student Life and Leadership staff, as well as students involved with the WOW program. She said several teams worked on a task force to address different focuses of orientation programs, such as on-campus programs, academic advising and transfer students.
The changes, Tabrizi said, were inevitable for the orientation programs. She said there has long been a focus on changing the direction of summer orientation to the San Luis Obispo community and directing fall programming further toward exploring the Cal Poly campus. As part of this change, some of the off-campus activities previously included in WOW will become a part of Student Orientation and Registration (SOAR).
“Orientation programs went through a lot this year. I’m so proud of the leadership group for doing this,” Tabrizi said. “It’s a huge, big-picture change, rather than just telling WOW groups they can’t take their kids off campus.”
Despite the changes, Tabrizi said the WOW tradition will not be lost during the transition process. She said she was a proponent of keeping the “Week of Welcome” name for the fall programs and making sure the historic orientation continues to be a part of life at Cal Poly.
“It is a tradition, and I didn’t want to stray too far from that tradition,” Tabrizi said.
Some said there was speculation during Tuesday’s meeting that the order to change WOW came directly from the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs to increase school spirit. Soon after Kaiwi-Lenting’s letter was released, Allen responded to alumni, parent and student discontent in a separate statement.
“The President and I both want to assure you that we are committed to the Week of Welcome,” Allen wrote. “The Week of Welcome program has benefited over the years from continuous efforts to improve the quality of the program, and we have every intention not only of preserving the quality of the experience, but also of improving and enriching it where feasible. Students will continue to coordinate the program, and we are thankful for our 750 student WOW leaders and their commitment to welcoming our new students to campus.”
Kaiwi-Lenting and Allen could not be reached for comment.
Kaytlyn Leslie contributed to this article.