Senate Beat: Mar 4, 2020

Housing Advisers Frustrated with Area Coordinators

This past Wednesday, the senators held hands and huddled together in a circle, in an attempt to create warmth, share their feelings, and discuss this week’s topic, Residence Life! 

The rows of the Student Union were quite full this week, stuffed to the gills with Res Life staff and Housing Advisers (HAs) alike who all turned up to spill their grievances and brainstorm solutions. First to speak was Residence Life Director, Julia Nicholson, who stepped forward to highlight her current priorities for this semester, which focused around gaining a better understanding of the connection between the neighborhood model, the student life curriculum, and the student success plan, as well as reviewing the results of the residence survey and finding ways to improve on it for the future. 

Julia provided an overview of the survey results from last semester which emphasized a stark difference between underclassmen and upperclassmen community expectations. Underclassmen expressed a strong desire for a sense of community among their dormies, whereas upperclassmen expressed a preference towards peaceful coexistence, and often utilized the phrase “friendly but not friends.” In spite of this difference, when responding to the question regarding the most meaningful community events, all students showed an overwhelming preference for SU Balls, which was followed by Res Life events and student organizations. The highest reported tools that aided student wellbeing were the Health and Counseling Center, academic support resources, Res Life, and friend groups. Another important note that Julia expressed was a seemingly consistent desire across first year responses to receive more academic support. 

Following this report was a stretch of air for HAs to voice concerns and grievances regarding their jobs, and, might I say, this air was greatly utilized. First, HAs were concerned about working conditions. The HAs in attendance expressed a collective feeling of Area Coordinator (AC) abuse of the position agreement, the list of obligations that HAs have agreed to uphold. ACs, who are the direct supervisors of HAs, were reported as treating the agreement as a “case by case suggested policy” in order to “discriminate and create an unfair working environment.” HAs reported feeling as if their jobs were being held as leverage in order to elicit a desired behavior and promote censorship. Additionally, it was reported that in the past HAs have been encouraged to skip class in order to lead training and “chats” for no compensation. It was also expressed that the HA selection process has become increasingly difficult and unfair as it puts all of the weight onto the shoulders of senior HAs, who end up working for “6+ hours on a Sunday” with little compensation. 

Heated tension rose when Senator Aziz Ouedraogo expressed the value he found in the uncompensated “professional development” activities, noting that they could be framed as “new skills” that can be added to a resume. One of the HAs in attendance responded that not everybody feels that way. They expressed a desire for greater departmental transparency and that additions be made to the job description in order to prevent future abuses. 

The topic of censorship was rehashed when a Res Life staff member questioned a previous comment made by Aziz regarding feeling a strong pressure to be perceived as the “perfect HA,” and wanted to know where this perception was coming from. Aziz responded that this feeling stems from departmental pressures to uphold a specific image which has caused him to become hyper-conscious of how he is perceived. He noted that he feels “very visible as an HA on campus, especially an HA of color” and that this sense of visibility has caused him to construct a public identity that doesn’t know when to take the “HA hat” off. 

The final word fell to our fearless leader and Student Body President Pax Lloyd-Burchett, who noted that the issues surrounding the Res Life turmoil boil down to the unnecessary anxiety caused by a lack of departmental transparency. And although it seemed that the conversation had just begun, the clock struck, time was up, and audience members began to trickle out before the gavel had a chance to hit the table.

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