Section: News

ResLife refocuses on community

ResLife refocuses on community

by Julia Waldow

This school year, the Housing and Residential Life (ResLife) office and its new director and assistant directors have altered their approaches to existing policies, especially those relating to community-building, sexual misconduct and economic matters.

ResLife’s revised residence policy seeks to maintain a more solid campus community and encourages Community Advisors (CAs) to create activities specifically tailored to their groups, according to ResLife Director Jill Engel-Hellman.

“Our new model recognizes that building community is an ongoing process that builds on the experiences and needs of community members, both individually and collectively,” Engel-Hellman wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Currently, ResLife asks CAs to facilitate three activities — called “programs” — over three weeks. After the first six weeks, the CAs will work with their Assistant Director (AD) to develop individualized plans.

The new plan gives CAs more flexibility, according to Mather Residence Hall CA Luke Kresslein ’15.

“[Engel-Hellman] expects us to do programming and be present on our halls but not to do things that aren’t working for our residential area,” Kresslein said. “If you have a group of freshmen who really like to do things together, do a lot of programming for them. But if you have a group of upperclassmen, most of those people are busy and have their own lives and social circles and aren’t super interested in being part of that world.”

CAs are advised to get to know each student personally. This year, CAs are encouraged to know three facts about each of their residents and talk with their ADs for 30 seconds to a minute about the people in their hall/building.

“The idea is that you can’t create a community if you don’t know who you’re creating it for,” North Campus Apartments CA Kim Selwyn ’15 said.

More than pizza: allocating the budget

As ResLife is in the process of redistributing its budget, CAs have planned cost-free events or have used their own money and kept receipts for reimbursement. This will change when their budgets are released. CAs are “at no point forced to spend their own money,” according to Selwyn.

“There’s a lot of emphasis being placed on not spending money in your programs, which has been [emphasized] in the past,” Selwyn said. “But [now], with the renewed emphasis on communication, there’s sort of the idea that your residents shouldn’t only want to go to a program because there’s pizza.”

In past years, CAs received a certain amount of money in advance for programming based on their number of residents. This year, other options are being considered, one of which involves each staff sharing a pool of money.

“Departmental budgets, ours included, are constantly being reviewed and reassessed in the interest of ensuring that resource allocations match programmatic priorities and strategic initiatives,” Engel-Hellman wrote. “We have a budget for the year, but I’m in the process of reallocating the different lines.”

As of press time, CA budgets for the year had not been solidified.

“Person first, student second, CA third?”

Like the budget, the Good Samaritan policy is up for revision. The policy protects students — especially those who are underage — from getting in trouble with the College when they are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and need to ask for help. According to a preexisting policy, CAs cannot Good Samaritan a resident unless a resident specifically comes to them for help. If CAs discover someone in need of help and call Campus Safety, that student can be held accountable for violating College policy. As College employees, CAs cannot be Good Samaritan-ed, but ResLife has agreed to work with CAs on changing the policy if need be.

“The CA position has contradictions, and one of those contradictions is ‘person first, student second, CA third,’” Selwyn said. “But we can never be Good Sam-ed. I understand that it would look bad if CAs were getting Good Samaritan-ed all over the place, but it’s one of those things [where] everyone else on this campus is getting this wonderful opportunity … [but] then you become a CA and it’s not your safety net anymore. I don’t think it’s unequivocally incorrect, but it’s certainly an adjustment.”

Bathroom dilemmas

The gender-neutral bathroom policy is also up for discussion due to changes made this year. Gender-neutral bathrooms can serve to make transgender students and students of non-binary gender feel more comfortable. In the past, halls could vote on making one or more bathrooms gender-neutral. This year, ResLife has asked CAs to alter the method.

“We are worried that in a public forum, if you ask somebody that kind of question — ‘Would you be okay with sharing a bathroom?’ — and one person out of sixteen in your hallway is uncomfortable, [he or she] might feel uncomfortable going against [the majority] and feel that [he or she] did not get to make that choice fairly,” Kresslein said. “[Next] summer, we’re going to talk more [about that], and [ResLife is] very receptive to the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms.”

Enacting Title IX

In the past, CAs were encouraged to go to their AD regarding sexual misconduct cases. This year, the College altered the reporting process  as part of its initiative to increase training for Title IX.

According to Selwyn, CAs must now go straight to a Title IX coordinator about an incident, whereupon the coordinator will log the information and reach out to the affected student. There is no mandate that the student take legal action or receive counseling. Rather, this new path is meant to serve as a support system.

Practicing what they preach

Additional policy changes were made to “align policies with actual practice,” Engel-Hellman said. For example, the Student Handbook now states that kitchen appliances with open coils (like hot plates) are only permitted in the Acland, Morgan, North Campus and New Apartments and designated community kitchen spaces. In addition, room changes may be made beginning Sept. 15, and “sanctions for students found with unapproved pets will no longer include a mandatory fine,” Engel-Hellman said.

New ResLife staff members Jessica Maloney and Alex Shaver, assistant directors of housing and residential life of the first-year quad and north campus, respectively, will assist Engel-Hellman and other staff in carrying out policies.

Students can expect to hear of any updated changes for this year from their CAs.


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