by Erich Kaletka
Getting a single and being paid to make sure nobody is smoking in your hall — who wouldn’t want to do that? While being a community advisor (CA) is not nearly so simple, this position is still one of, if not the, highest-paid student jobs on Kenyon’s campus. In a series of meetings, Feb. 11 and 12 the Office of Housing and Residential Life (ResLife) decided to overhaul the way CAs are compensated, moving from a room credit and stipend system to a completely wage-based system that will likely be implemented for the 2015-16 academic year, although none of these changes have been made official as of yet, according to Director of Housing and Residential Life Jill Engel-Hellman.
ResLife, the CDO and the Office of Financial Aid devised this change in recognition of complaints that working as a CA can have a negative impact on students who are receiving need-based financial aid. According to Engel-Hellman, CAs are currently given a room credit for a single, and are paid a stipend of $1,400 per year for first-time CAs, $1,700 per year for returning CAs and $2,400 per year for head CAs. According to Engel-Hellman, the problem is that under the current system, “All the money they were earning was essentially taken out of financial aid packages, dollar for dollar.”
The Office of Financial Aid has no choice in how CA compensation is dealt with. Director of Financial Aid Craig Daugherty wrote in an email to the Collegian that “the treatment of external compensation (such as CA compensation) is not my rule or Kenyon’s rule but [are] guidelines given to us to follow by the Department of Education.” This is, according to Engel-Hellman, a diversity issue, “because we want the community advisors to be representative of the entire student population, and with the current compensation package this can prove difficult, and several CAs end up basically volunteering for the position.”
Due to the difficulty of the situation and the issues it can create, Engel-Hellman said that now, instead of being granted a room credit and a stipend, CAs “will be paid for an average number of hours per week at most times during the semester and will also be compensated extra for peak periods, like orientation and move-out week.” Engel-Hellman added that all CAs will be paid $9.07 an hour for an average of 18 hours a week, with head CAs being paid $10.22 an hour.
Some see this as a boon for CAs, prospective CAs and the College. CA applicant Rachel Arens ’18, a recipient of need-based financial aid, said that she would much prefer a wage system because then she would be treated more like an actual employee, rather than a student with extra responsibilities. “If there’s a wage system, then I can do whatever I want with the money, which is huge motivation,” Arens said. “There’s also no fear of financial aid getting reduced without the benefit of actually having money to cover the change.” Johanna Klinman ’15, Head CA on the first-year quad, said the issue of compensation has been around for a while, and even had a friend who had to give up her CA position because of financial reasons. Klinman also praised Engel-Hellman, saying, “She made this a top priority when she took control of ResLife this past August. Although the previous director was aware of the issue, it was never dealt with.”
Engel-Hellman said she hopes the changes will help Kenyon reach some of the goals of President Sean Decatur’s 2020 plan, “not only increasing CA diversity, but also increasing equity among student positions on campus.”