The Office of Housing and Residential Life (ResLife) asking Community Advisors (CAs) to record interactions with their residents is alarming, especially considering that ResLife requested CAs not inform their residents of this new procedure.
While a practice such as this “Resident Interaction Form” is used by other colleges and universities, as Director of ResLife Jill Engel-Hellman told us, not telling students about the form is an invasion of privacy. It threatens the freedom of CAs and their residents to develop genuine, supportive relationships, which is especially important for first years and transfer students.
The ease with which ResLife is willing to implement an intrusive policy without notifying students raises disturbing questions about what else the College is not telling us. Why doesn’t the College want to inform students of changes that may affect their daily lives? What other information might the College be collecting on students without their knowledge? In an attempt to foster community, ResLife is jeopardizing that sense of community by undermining our trust in administrators. We understand CAs cannot always be completely forthcoming with students, but we think students have a right to know if their conversations can be documented and seen by administrators. Furthermore, we highly doubt this is the best way to better CA interactions with their residents: More hall events or scheduled check-ins with new students and their CAs halfway through the semester could have a similar result without raising privacy concerns.
In this case, students are not the only ones who have been uninformed. Many CAs refuse to speak to us because they are afraid of getting fired. (Engel-Hellman told us there is no concern about CAs being fired for talking to the Collegian.) In an email she sent CAs last night that was obtained by the Collegian through an anonymous source, she told CAs they are welcome to speak to us “as a student” — but this does not address the question of whether CAs can talk to us about their responsibilities, or dispel the belief that speaking to us would cause them to be penalized or lose their job.
This semester, we have also struggled to reach ResLife staffers to discuss stories both big and small. Our editors’ phone calls are rarely returned; our writers’ emails are not answered. When we manage to schedule interviews, we are asked that the interviews not be recorded, which threatens our ability to be as fair and accurate as possible. Furthermore, recent interviews with ResLife staffers have been characterized by condescension and disrespect. In a recent interview, one of our editors was compared to a child. This is unprofessional and inappropriate behavior for administrators.
As young reporters, we are still learning, but we need the cooperation of College officials to do our job. Lack of communication does not shelter the College from criticism — it just threatens accuracy and does us all a disservice. In the future, we hope administrators will communicate as professionally with us as we aim to do with them. Ineffective communication does not make students feel secure.