Roanoke, Virginia—For the first time in its 200-year history, Longvine University has invited its incoming freshmen to a week-long pre-orientation orientation. “We found that many students were bewildered by the activities at the September orientation,” explained Evelyn Straw, director of student affairs. “They hadn’t seen anything quite like it, even with all the group work they experienced in school. So we realized that we needed to prep them for it.” The week is divided into four parts: introduction, get-to-know-you sessions, streamlining workshops, and a big share at the end. From there, the students head directly to the official orientation, which should hold no surprises for them.
When we visited incoming freshman Iris Sredny at her home in Eagle Rock, we found her poring over a booklet. “I was so worried about this pre-orientation orientation at first,” she told us. “What if I didn’t know what to do? I mean, if orientation’s so complicated they need to prepare us for it, won’t this be complicated too?” After she received the booklet in the mail, she said, everything changed for her. “It tells me exactly what to expect,” she explained, “and what I need to do in the next few weeks to get myself ready. Now I’m getting excited.”
The booklet states on the first page that “Longvine University is committed both to its long and proud tradition of diversity and to its goal of streamlining for the 21st century.” All incoming students are encouraged to “embrace the worldview of the Longvine team,” thus “decreasing Longvine’s eccentricity expenditures and ensuring an equitable education for all.” (Courses with low enrollment, such as Medieval Art, Greek, and Yoruba, are considered “eccentricity expenditures.”) “Once we have no more eccentric majors or departments,” the booklet explains, “we will be able to honor the desires and dreams of the Longvine team. You, incoming student, hold the key to Longvine’s future.”
To prepare for the pre-orientation orientation, students must follow a specific routine. Every morning after breakfast, Sredny enters “brainstorm mode,” types whatever comes to her head, posts it on the Longvine website, and awaits her peers’ votes. If they like it, she keeps it up; if they don’t, she takes it down and reflects on how she will adjust her brainstorming next time. This process takes most of the morning. After lunch, she logs in again and takes a look at “team choices”—what most of her peers like to eat, read, follow, watch, and study. She promises to eat, read, follow, watch, or study one of those team-chosen things for the rest of the day. After doing so, she logs in again to comment on it. The day concludes with a virtual group hug.
“The routine’s great,” said Sredny. “I mean, I miss reading my favorite books, but I’m still left with a bunch of choices. It’s kind of a team curriculum, and that’s fun. Eventually, my favorite books will be the popular ones. Or the popular ones will be my favorites. Either way, it’ll work out.”
Already, before its opening day, Longvine’s pre-orientation orientation is becoming a national model. “We’ve got to implement this across the board,” said Frank Unbegun, president of the National Association of Bottom-Lined Universities and Colleges (NABLUC). “It’s got to be at the top of every college’s agenda: to streamline for optimized budgets and teamwork.” He has proposed a national orientation to prepare students for all the pre-orientations and orientations that follow. “Really, education is just one big orientation,” he declared. “If these kids just learn to stop complicating things, then what else do we need to teach? Nothing. Kaboom. We’ve covered it all.” He lowered his voice and doubled his chin. “Especially our own asses.”
His colleague Mike Frunze concurred. “Once we get rid of all that antiquated subject matter diddly-poo and all those itty-bitty personalities,” he said, “we’ll have success, achievement, collaboration and innovation, with plenty of money left over.” He took a swig of lemonade. “Ah, what a world that will be.”