Letter to the Editor: Union of Reed College Housing Advisors

Dear Reader,

We hope this letter finds you well. As a group of dedicated Housing Advisors (HAs) working diligently within Reed College’s ResLife, we would like to bring several pressing issues to your attention. These concerns revolve around the constant changes in HA role responsibilities and job descriptions, as well as several other matters impacting our ability to perform our roles effectively.

One of the primary grievances we have is the frequent and sometimes abrupt changes in our role responsibilities and job descriptions. This constant flux not only creates confusion but also makes it challenging for us to effectively plan and execute our duties. Clear and stable job descriptions are essential for us to provide the best possible service to our fellow students and the university community.

To address this issue, we propose that we be paid for full room and board without deductions for taxes. Currently, we are being compensated for full room and board before taxes, which results in us effectively paying for some of our room and board each semester. Given the nature of our position, full room and board should be provided without any deductions. Additionally, it is common in many places to include an extra stipend for RAs/ HAs, such as the $100 every two weeks that PSU provides its RAs. We believe requesting additional pay on top of room and board is a fair and reasonable proposal.

Furthermore, we urge the university to treat being an HA like any other job for financial aid purposes. Currently, Reed treats the HA stipend as aid and deducts the amount from our Reed grant aid two years after starting as HAs. This practice is unfair and unjust, as we are not receiving aid for being HAs; we are being compensated for the job we perform. This practice puts students who become HAs to help pay for their education in a disadvantageous position by reducing their financial aid, which the university has already assessed as necessary for their education.

We also request the removal of GPA requirements for HAs. This recent addition to the HA position creates additional stress, especially for minorities and low-income students who may already be juggling multiple responsibilities. Moreover, it contradicts the ethos of Reed, where students are encouraged to focus on learning rather than obsessing over their GPAs. Requiring HAs to maintain specific GPAs goes against the academic culture Reed seeks to maintain.

Regarding rounds, we strongly advocate for elimination of this policy. We believe that the majority of Reed students would not support HAs conducting rounds. Rounds can erode trust between HAs and residents and damage community relationships by subjecting residents to increased surveillance. Additionally, our current mental health first aid certification does not cover medical first aid, which poses a risk when responding to injuries or medical emergencies during rounds.

Another crucial concern is the practice of introducing surprise changes to our roles and responsibilities. While some of us may not have experienced this personally, we have heard from former and returning HAs that Reslife has imposed unexpected tasks or requirements that put their positions at risk. These sudden changes are disruptive and unjust, and we believe that with the establishment of an official contract, such practices can be eliminated.

Finally, we strongly advocate for the end of at-will employment. At-will employment provides little job security, allowing the employer to terminate employment for any reason at any time. This practice has been used to justify surprising HAs with tasks and changes in their roles. By moving away from at-will employment, we can provide HAs with genuine job security and ensure fair treatment.

In light of these concerns, we are actively protesting and working towards unionizing as Housing Advisors. We believe that forming a union will provide us with the collective bargaining power needed to address these issues and negotiate for fair and consistent treatment.

Additionally, we have received input from alumni, which highlights concerns about changes to the HA role, the terms of the contract, and the impact on student lives.

In conclusion, we are committed to improving our working conditions and the quality of the services we provide as Housing Advisors. We hope that our proposals and concerns will be addressed promptly to create a more conducive working environment for all of us.

Thank you for your attention to these matters. We look forward to constructive dialogue and positive changes that will benefit us and the college as a whole. We as a community recognize that we need to talk and that the HAs are upset and concerned for our residents and ourselves. I’d like to invite those who’ve read this to give us your eyes and ears, but most importantly, your voices. 

Union of Reed College Housing Advisors, URCHA

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