President Sean Decatur and Vice President for Student Affairs Celestino Limas held an information session on Tuesday regarding changes to the Community Advisor (CA) role for the next academic year. Limas also announced during the session that hiring for new CAs would begin on March 2.
When Limas announced the changes to the CA positions on Jan. 21 — most notably, a move from hourly wages to a stipend system and the return of apartment CAs — some CAs quickly raised concerns about the effects of the move to the stipend system.
Limas said he appreciated the CA’s raising their concerns. “There were some questions that came up from that. I think they were brilliant,” he said in Tuesday’s information session. “I think they were very much so a chance not just for CAs to think openly with us about some of the things that are going to be different for next year, but also is a wonderful opportunity for us to not just speak to those answers, but then be able to make some adjustments along the way.”
In early February, CAs and members of K-SWOC met with Decatur and Limas, at which point they agreed to hold an open forum, provide a report on the financial consequences of this change and give a statement on the CAs’ legal relationship to the College. Limas later told the Collegian that the information he presented in the meeting, along with the CA terms and conditions, will suffice as the financial report and legal statement CAs say they were promised.
Though CAs and administrators agreed on an open forum, Tuesday’s meeting was a webinar format. Limas explained that he chose this mode to provide as much information as possible. “It was important to be able to shepherd the content to make certain we served all viewers and could invest time in specific areas during the session,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.
In the meeting, Limas elaborated on the timeline of changes to the position. Limas said he began the process of revising the position in the fall by wanting to understand three questions: “What’s working? What’s not working? And what’s missing?”
Limas explained that the move to a stipend will bring Kenyon residential advisor policies in line with many of its peer institutions, while also emphasizing Kenyon’s unique qualities. “There’s something special about Kenyon that we want to honor and understand. It was important that I not come in and just map on a template of how CA systems work at other institutions,” he said.
According to the calculations provided by Limas, CAs will be making almost $900 more than they do currently. However, CAs believe that Limas is likely underestimating their current earnings, as his calculations rely on a shorter training period in August than CAs completed this year and did not include the hours CAs work in January before the second semester begins. These calculations rely on an assumption of CAs working 18 hours per week, though according to April Murphy ’22, CAs may currently log hours above that if they work more than normal. It is unclear if CAs will be compensated for the extra time if they do work past 18 hours per week, though Limas told the Collegian they will not be expected to work more than that.
Limas also clarified several important points, including that the CA stipend will increase annually at the same rate as other student worker wages, matching inflation. He also explained that compensation will be broken down into a $2,000 housing discount and an $8,000 stipend, rather than the $10,000 stipend as initially stated.
Decatur said he believes the presentation accomplished its goals. “I think it was helpful to have a chance to clarify those issues, and I know that the position description information that gets put out there on Handshake, along with the application, has been updated as well. So between those, I think the questions that folks had about the CA job should be answered,” he said.
Limas concurred with Decatur’s assessment. “We are confident that all questions have been answered that have been asked regarding the CA enhancements,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. Limas also said that there will be further information sessions after spring break, if prospective applicants have further questions.
Soon after the meeting, CAs raised concerns that they had not received the financial impact study or the legal statement they were promised, that many questions were left unanswered, and the webinar format of the meeting.
Murphy sent an all-student email Tuesday afternoon expressing their dissatisfaction with the meeting. She raised concerns that the meeting was not the open forum CAs had been promised, but rather a presentation. “Questions were selectively answered, there was no chat function, and thus two-way participation was rendered impossible,” they wrote in the email.
Murphy also wrote that the meeting left her deeply disappointed. “How can I put my trust in an administration which has threatened to arrest me for peacefully picketing, mandated that I police and report the activity of all of my residents, lied to me and other student workers, refused to pay workers for all hours worked, and publicly gaslit organizers?” they wrote.
Ilan Magnani ’24, another CA, replied, echoing Murphy’s concerns and calling on other CAs and student workers to sign on to the farmers’ unfair labor practice strike. “I encourage all student workers who want to support the farm, CAs, and other workplaces by joining us on strike in response to the College’s unfair labor practices and top-down decision making,” they wrote.