New College’s Valuing Inclusivity Program (VIP) Weekend was an event intended to bring prospective students of color on campus for a weekend stay in current students’ dorms, giving them the opportunity to attend on-campus events and get a glimpse at student life. However, on Mar. 8 it was announced to volunteers through an Admissions staff email that VIP Weekend has been canceled after the “careful consideration” of those in the Admissions offices. Admissions staff proposed the idea of instead shifting focus to the other current student recruitment program “Novo 4 A Day,” which limits the prospective student to one day of class with a current student who has a similar intended Area of Concentration (AOC).
VIP Weekend has had one previous year of events in which six prospective students experienced catered food, were able to meet with representatives from clubs and student unions and receive a personal greeting from Okker.
Second-year and Catalyst Co-Copy Editor Gaby Batista was a student host for last year’s VIP Weekend, and also helped plan this year’s event before its cancelation.
“All of the students who signed up to be a part of the program [last year] ended up depositing and enrolling the following fall, so it was a 100% acceptance and enrollment rate,” Batista said.
VIP Weekend was originally intended for students of color in order to further diversity on campus, and to allow students to get a sneak peek into the New College community. However, things quickly changed when the Office of Outreach and Inclusive Excellence (OOIE) was dissolved by the BOT on Feb. 28. Before the board voted on the eradication of the office, Interim Provost and VP for Academic Affairs Bradley Thiessen announced during the Feb. 28 meeting that VIP Weekend will be opened up to all students regardless of race. The Catalyst questioned Thiessen through an email interview about the changes made to the event.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know much about VIP Weekend or Novo 4 A Day,” Thiessen said.
Assistant Director of Admissions Alexandra Landry was the staff member who had to deliver the unfortunate news to students and staff through a mass email, and spoke with the Catalyst about the process of its cancelation.
“The event was hosted by the Admissions Office and OOIE,” Landry continued. “Unfortunately, [the] OOIE was dissolved, and so VIP Weekend was changed to a single day and opened up to all admitted students. Given that the nature of the revised VIP program resembled our existing Novo 4 A Day shadow program, we decided to focus our energy and resources to expand Novo 4 A Day and offer more opportunities for admitted students to sign up.”
Student organizers of the event were not aware of the cancelation before the mass email to students and staff. First-year Kyla Baldonado and student volunteer for the event spoke about her opinions of the cancelation.
“For a moment, I had to grieve the fact that VIP Weekend would not be living up to its original purpose, but I reminded myself that even with the change in attendees, I can still deliver the same impact to prospective students no matter their background,” Baldonado said. “I will admit though, that I held onto hope that POC students would sign up. It’s important to me that I am able to alleviate fellow POC students’ college concerns by letting them know the resources and support available to them at New College.”
Baldonado was also a guest during the 2022 VIP Weekend, and provided her perspective on the importance of attending the event.
“Much of the projects and work I do on campus today is owed to my attendance at VIP Weekend last year,” she said. “Connecting with the hosts last year gave me mentors to look up to and help me get an affinity club started—in fact, it was during VIP Weekend that I had a conversation with [second-year] Shawna Itakura on creating an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) club.”
“Making friends before school started made it easier for me to enter New College socially, especially because I was an international applicant who happens to be shy,” Baldonado continued.
Itakura also spoke with the Catalyst about the situation.
“I think the fun part about VIP Weekend is experiencing New College culture, but also getting to know other students that will potentially be a part of your class, and it kind of sucks that [this] opportunity is no longer available this year,” Itakura said. ”But hopefully, Admissions will promote Novo 4 A Day more and we get more students.”
VIP Weekend organizers were offering the student volunteers $11 an hour with a cap of 15 total hours for their participation in the event, which enticed many students on campus to volunteer. Now that Novo 4 A Day is replacing the event, Admissions will be offering the same payment rates for those who were previously signed up for VIP Weekend.
“So far this academic year, we have hosted over 40 admitted students for Novo 4 A Day with another 11 or so to host during the remainder of spring semester,” Landry said. “Also, seven of the VIP hosts have indicated that they would like to be a Novo 4 A Day host.”