The Residential Life (ResLife) department at Colgate has recently undergone high staff turnover rates, uproar from students regarding the event registration process, as well as accused of having a lack of transparency.
“The summer between when I got hired [as a Community Leader (CL)] and started working, there were at least two people who either left or were fired. My supervisor from last year left the department,” a Colgate junior who wishes to remain anonymous said. “There are only two people on staff right now that were there when I was hired my freshman year, and those two people are leaving at the end of this semester. So in three years, the department has almost entirely turned over its professional staff.”
Ice said that employee matters are confidential.
“What I can say is that our staff (student and professional) from time to time discover they no longer ‘fit’ with the department or Colgate and look for other opportunities beyond Residential Life,” Ice said. “I have always been supportive of those seeking other opportunities as I want and encourage my staff to be happy with the work they do, recognizing that’s not always here in Residential Life/Colgate.”
According to the anonymous source, at least three CLs are not renewing their contracts for next year.
“There’s a decent degree of frustration that exists among student staff members about their voices not necessarily making it through to the leaders of ResLife in the way that they want to. I think that might be the cause of some of the student staff members’ resignations,” sophomore John Murphy, who will continue his job as a CL next year, said. “I think people are realizing that if they don’t necessarily agree with ResLife’s policies and it’s their job to enforce those policies, that it’s not responsible to continue in the position.”
According to Ice, students’ primary concerns are about the room selection process. In light of this, the ResLife department has recently received funding to purchase a new housing management system that should be implemented in time for the incoming first-year class to make their housing preferences for fall 2013.
“For students, this will mean a new and improved interface with our office as it relates to housing assignments,” Ice said. “The system will make room selection easier to manage, including a new roommate matching feature to assist those in need of a roommate to meet capacity.”
In another attempt to ease students’ anxieties and explain how things work in the office, this year ResLife shared information about housing at least two months before the room selection process began, according to Ice.
Additionally, the Board of Trustees recently approved the Living the Liberal Arts initiative, which will influence ResLife’s goals for next year and change the ‘look’ of the department, according to Ice.
Despite planned changes, students still seem to maintain a skeptical view of ResLife.
Murphy said students’ negative comments about ResLife give it a bad reputation on campus, which then makes it tough for the department to find student staff members who are committed to ResLife what it tries to do.
“I think some of the blame for mishaps goes on [ResLife] when maybe it shouldn’t be, but it certainly looks like they’re to blame, and either they are, or they can’t communicate very well why they’re not,” the junior said.
The junior used the recent event registration policy as an example of students placing the blame solely on ResLife, despite the departments’ collaboration with other organizations on campus.
The anonymous source said that ResLife is difficult to work with because its management team is not very transparent. The source cited changes to available housing options this year as an example of ResLife making decisions without consultation from students and then expecting student staff members to implement them without questioning the reasoning.
“As intelligent adults with a vested interest in student life and how students are treated and how the college residential experience goes, that was received poorly by myself and a lot of other CLs,” the anonymous source said.
“Our contract is to carry out the policies that ResLife decides upon,” Murphy said. “So sometimes students do question policies and don’t receive answers they find satisfactory, and they might be frustrated by this; the job is to do what you’re asked to do in a situation and I think it’s easy to forget that when you sign your contract in the beginning of the year.”
“[ResLife] has worked to be more transparent in our processes, informing students of how and why we do the things we do,” Ice said. “We continue to define the role of our student and professional staff, to assist with the overall experience of our residents.”
The anonymous source said students do not have a full picture of what ResLife has to deal with and that ResLife should communicate that to students in order to gain more sympathy.
“ResLife gets this reputation of being the professional ruiners of student life on campus,” Murphy said. “And while there are instances where ResLife does things that students may not enjoy, that’s not their goal. Communicating that to the student body perhaps would be a good thing as well.”
Murphy said he thinks ResLife is taking steps to improve, one being a group he is a part of that meets with Ice to think about planning for the future and the way things could be changed.
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