Section: News

CAs confront new challenges during pandemic

In a semester defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenyon’s Community Advisors (CAs) are navigating new tasks and heavier workloads. 

The unusual circumstances of the fall 2020 semester mean there are unique expectations and guidelines that follow these residential supervisors. CAs are tasked with finding novel ways to engage with their peers and enforcing the rules that have arisen from the need to follow healthy and safety guidelines.  

Even with roughly half of the normal student population on campus, obligations for CAs have risen dramatically. Many CA positions were left unfilled due to student concerns over safety and less-thansatisfactory pay, according to Katherine Crawford ’22, a CA for Lewis Residence Hall, which means each CA has more ground to cover.  

Of the additional responsibilities, CAs are expected to conduct more rounds —  keeping watch over a particular area of campus at night — between three and four times a week this semester, when last year it was “rare” to be assigned even two, says Crawford. However, the spaces which CAs are responsible for covering are smaller this year.  

Between Monday and Wednesday nights, CAs conduct rounds alone, which is a new practice. Originally, the College had planned for all rounds to be conducted without a partner this semester. Current CAs quickly expressed their concerns with that proposal, instead agreeing with the Resident Life Coordinators to reinstate the partner system for the nights between Thursday and Sunday. Even though CAs now have partners for some nights, the responsibility of rounds conducted alone have created many fears for those involved in this process, according to Crawford. 

Before a typical semester, Crawford says CAs are on campus two weeks before orientation begins, and receive nearly 75 hours of hands-on training before interacting with incoming students. This semester, however, CAs received less than 20 hours of training, the majority of which were conducted virtually. This has left returning CAs feeling frustrated and worried, and has left new CAs feeling overwhelmed and unprepared, says Crawford.  

CAs are also expected to conduct more engagement programs this year. Typically, each CA organizes four programs for the semester in order to interact with their residents; this semester, however, CAs are required to develop 10 programs, the majority of which must be held in a virtual setting. The demand for more structured programs came from the RLCs, and CAs are finding it difficult to connect to students through a screen, says Ryan Nader ’21, a CA for Mather Residence Hall. International students, who often apply for CA positions because they are among the best-paying jobs on campus, have found the demands of this semester to be especially stressful. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of termination, one such CA had a multitude of concerns.  

“[W]e are expected to complete all of these tasks, the same as our domestic student peers, but we can’t ever go over 20 hours per week in our worksheet,” the CA said. “International CAs have no choice but to work more than 20 hours per week without being able to log more than those [hours] in their worksheet due to [visa] restrictions. The right of equal and just pay is not guaranteed for us.” 

However, CAs are still rising to the occasion. Nader says that all CAs are “trying to do [their] best.” It is with this attitude that he has been able to engage with, and ensure the comfort of, the residents of his f loor in Mather Residence Hall. CAs across campus hope to continue this same ethos for the rest of the semester.      

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