Section: Opinion

CA policy threatens residents’ integrity

The Housing and Residential Life Office’s (ResLife) policy that requires Community Advisors (CAs) to fill out a “Resident Interaction Form” is an outrageous violation of student privacy and demonstrates how out of touch the office is with the job its employees perform. The justifications that Director Jill Engel-Hellman and Assistant Director Alex Shaver provide for enforcing such an extreme “Big Brother” policy demonstrate the duo’s ignorance for what CAs actually do for their residents.

Last year, ResLife changed the pay structure of CAs from a room credit and stipend to an 18-hours-per-week wage. This new policy was introduced to prevent CAs from losing financial aid; because CAs received a room credit, the amount of aid they received was reduced under the old pay structure. While this was surely well intentioned, the immediate consequence was the need for ResLife to monitor their employees more closely to ensure they are working a full 18 hours each week. The goals of this new policy were unclear. As one former CA explained to me, “there is a lack of honesty about policy changes. They say one thing … and then turn it into another.” Herein lies ResLife’s fundamental problem: Being a CA is not a job you clock into when the shift starts and out of when it’s over. The job CAs perform cannot be quantified in a rigid hourly pay structure because being a CA is not a typical job. As I understand the position, a CA is there to support residents, especially first-year students as they adapt to life on the Hill. The quality and amount of support a CA gives their residents depends on numerous factors, including how much support (if any) residents actually need. Simply said, support cannot be measured by how diligently CAs take notes about resident interactions.

Regardless of how much information CAs have recorded in resident interaction forms, introducing the forms as policy compromises CAs’ ability to develop genuine relationships with their residents. In the first semester of my first year I relied heavily on my CA, holding many personal and private conversations. For ResLife to have a form for CAs to record information from such intimate conversations about residents’ health, social life and family as a way to ensure they are working 18 hours a week is outrageous, and frankly unacceptable. The policy holds CAs hostage to their rightful pay, and forces them to act against their conscience, as several CAs expressed anonymously to the Collegian.

In fairness, the Collegian article indicates that there is some leniency in the policy, and CAs do not have to document all of their interactions with residents. However, leniency in the policy shows that even if you disregard the moral and ethical objections to resident interaction forms, the policy itself still fails as an effective determinant of whether CAs actually are doing what ResLife considers to be their ‘jobs.’ How many activities and conversations can ResLife reasonably expect CAs to have with residents each week? My guess is that, if you asked the director and assistant directors what they think a CA should be doing every week on their hall, it wouldn’t exactly match up with what most students (and clearly some CAs) think.

  While taking notes about their residents’ basic information like hometown, potential major and interests for a CA’s personal reference  may help build the hall community, having CAs report more personal information, such as health, to head CAs and assistant directors does literally nothing to build or strengthen our community. It is intrusive. It is unnecessary. It is wrong.

The fact that students now know the form exists compromises CAs’ ability to effectively build hall communities. ResLife needs to amend this policy immediately in order to allow their employees to do their jobs effectively. As a student body we should implore ResLife to take CAs’ concerns with the policy more seriously. They are clearly being voiced, but are falling on deaf ears.

Daniel Cebul ’17 is a political science major from Wooster, Ohio. Contact him at cebuld@kenyon.edu.

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