Sarah Banks, Staff Writer
A new change to policy, to be implemented next year, will place new restrictions on the participation of resident assistants and residence directors in the Work Program. The changes are intended to satisfy legal requirements and also reduce stress for Residence Life staff, but students are concerned that the changes may have negative results. RAs and RDs were told of these new policies in a residence staff meeting last week. Under current policy, RA and RD positions do not qualify as part of the Work Program; those in Residence Life positions work on crews like any other student. Some, but not all, RDs get work contracts for 5 or 7.5 hours a week. As a benefit of the job, RAs get to live in a single room for the price of a double and RDs live for free and receive meal stipends.
In addition, RDs who graduate in December are allowed to remain in their positions through the school year.
Next year, Residence Life will become a crew within the Work Program. RAs will work ten hours on the this crew and another ten on a different work crew. Five of the ten RA hours will be paid. RDs will no longer be able to receive a work contract in addition to their RD duties, but work on the Residence Life Crew for ten hours of paid time.
Because of a legal issue which recently came to the attention of the college, RDs will no longer be able to live on campus after graduating in December.
RAs and RDs were also given a raise.
The decision to create a Residence Life work crew was made by Dean of Students Deb Myers.
“I got feedback from some current staff and some former staff and the area coordi- nators and listened to a lot of the concerns of RAs and RDs this semester,” said Myers. “This seemed like a good solution.”
Some current staff members support the decision.
“People will have to make a choice about what’s more important to them,” said RD of Sage Noah Wilson, who graduated in December. “But ultimately, the change in work assignments will lead to a more dedicated, less frazzled Res. Life staff with a clearer set of responsibilities and more time to spend improving the lives of students.”
But other current RAs and RDs are con- cerned that there was no community meeting to discuss any of the proposed changes – students were informed of the changes after they had been made.
“The issue is why we as RAs and RDs weren’t part of this decision,” said senior Jessica Irons, RD of Schafer A. “We have this idea that we are part of a shared governance structure and then this happens.”
At the Feb. 8 Caucus meeting, Myers informed members that students were not involved in the decision-making process because the issue is one of staffing, not of policy.
The change will most seriously affect a group of students whose crews require more training or a greater time commitment.
“Because of the complexity and risk as- sociated with the work we do, coupled with the distance we must travel to our work locations, time spent in the field is criti- cal for work done safely and well,” wrote Shawn Swartz, crew supervisor of Forestry. “I would not take someone on my crew who was only able to work a ten-hour contract, except in very special cases.”
Junior Caleb Mende, RA of ANTC, is particularly affected by the cut in hours.
“I will not be an RA next year specifically because of these changes,” he wrote. “My work on Landscaping/Tree Crew is much more important to me and, in the long run, is what I’d like to do after school.”
Forcing students who are prominent community leaders to choose between their work crews and their Residence Life positions might also limit the number of applicants to the positions.
“Students are going to have to make a choice between being an RD or a regular crew member,” said Wilson. “It’s a difficult decision to make, but I can personally tell you that it’s very difficult to live up to one’s RD responsibilities while working another WPO job. But ultimately, this consolida- tion will improve student life.”
Students have also raised the concern that RA and RD positions will no longer attract crew leaders, but Dean of Work Ian Robertson considers the changes to be for the better.
“Students have to make a choice of where they’re going to devote their time and lead- ership: in their work crew or as an RA/RD,” said Robertson. “But I also understand the need to have focused individuals in a certain area who are dedicated to RA/RD duties.”
Students who are in these leadership roles are going to have to make a choice about which crew is more important to them, but Myers remains optimistic about these changes.
“There is some opportunity to develop an RA group as a work crew that isn’t there now,” she said. “It might shift that identity, but I hope it shifts in a positive direction for the RAs to identify more strongly as a group.”