by Maya Lowenstein
Whether your community advisor (CA) is your best friend or foremost enemy, their role on campus is to provide support and keep students safe. To help CAs better perform that role, the Office of Housing and Residential Life (ResLife) announced in February that they will be making a few changes to the CA program, including redistributing the number of CAs and paying them in wages rather than the current room-credit-and-stipend system. There are currently 25 CAs for first-years and 21 for upperclassmen. Next year there will be 17 CAs for first years (not including two living in the upperclassman floors of Mather Residence Hall), 14 CAs for students living north and 13 for students living south.
The 46 CAs hired for the 2015-16 school year will earn the same amount as this year’s CAs. However, their rooming will not be compensated — each CA will be able to choose how they allocate their earnings instead of receiving room credit. Next year, regular CAs will be paid $9.24/hour, and head CAs will receive $10.41/hour. ResLife, the CDO and the Office of Financial Aid decided to make this change to improve the payment system for CAs who receive financial aid. With the current system, the money that CAs earned was deducted from their financial aid packages.
Director of Housing and ResLife and Assistant Dean of Students Jill Engel-Hellman said the motivation behind changing the distribution of CAs around campus was to “create a better representation of the student body.” ResLife wishes to ensure all students have a support system. “We want to support students in all four years,” she said. “Just because you’re an upperclass student doesn’t mean you don’t need support. You just need different support.” Phoebe Roe ’16, a CA for the New Apartments and a Collegian staff writer, said, “During the transition from first year to sophomore, it can be jarring if students don’t have the same support system.”
In the past, there have been upperclassman CAs assigned to as few as 30 residents and as many as 120. Engel-Hellman and Scott Gill-Jacobson, assistant director of Housing and ResLife, have realized that it’s about achieving a balance. Gill-Jacobson said “you can’t help 120 students like you can help 30, but bigger communities also allow for bigger opportunities.”
The redistribution will also allow for more equitable rounds. Next year there will be two upperclassman CAs on duty north and south instead of just one. Roe believes having two CAs on duty at all times is “much more feasible in case of an emergency.”
As the CA:student ratio increases, ResLife emphasizes that the decision was not made to increase rule enforcement. “We’re not a police force,” Engell-Hellman said. “Enforcing policy is part of what we do but we don’t want that to be the primary function. Kenyon is known for relationships. We want students to be able to set up good relationships. We don’t want it to be an adversarial thing.”
ResLife adjusted the application process this year to include three critical thinking activities that evaluated students. Gill-Jacobson said, “We look for a personal philosophy or interest that mirrors or mimics the goals of the program.” Engel-Hellman said, “There were lots of people we would have loved to hire but weren’t able to place.” Roe believes that the program’s selectivity is a good thing.
This year was particularly competitive for CA applicants. There were 56 applicants in total, which was more than last year. Fifty-one students completed the whole application process and of that pool only 17 were hired to join the 29 returning CAs. “It speaks very highly that we had 29 returners. We’ve never had as many.” Gill-Jacobson said.