The Middlebury Campus

We Support Residential Life

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Even though not all students spend time as part of the Residential Life staff, they all have contact with them over our four years. Whether it is putting in work orders or feeling homesick as a first-year, the Residential Life team spends hours of their time upholding the Middlebury’s values as a residential college. They are being asked to do more, but their pay and training does not reflect that.

Last year, it was announced that the position of the Commons Residential Advisor (CRA) would be replaced with the creation of the Commons Residential Director (CRD). While the name change is insignificant, the changes to what the roles entail are not. The main differences are the CRDs do not live in the First-Year dorms, they need to have a masters degree or higher, and take on a less personal role overall due to the less direct interaction they have with students. The CRDs now also did not attend Middlebury. The CRAs were described as the connective tissue, bridging the gaps between students, deans, and all of the Residential Life staff. CRDs function closer to administrators and disciplinarians. Now that this integral part of Residential Life is gone, student staff, mainly First Year Counselors (FYC) are left to fill in the gaps.

Some of the responsibilities of FYCs have grown to include increased hours on duty, more formalized rounds, fire safety checks, regular programming for their halls and dealing with any crisis their first-years are facing. While these all seem like they should be under the job description of FYCs, CRAs used to be in charge of or assisted with many of these tasks. Further, CRDs are officially supposed to handle programming, but there is no time or accountability to make this happen. Another issue that arises from CRDs not living in First-Year dorms is the FYCs are often the first responders to incidents of assault, alcohol and sexual misconduct. There is a deficit in training that makes FYCs unqualified to handle these situations. If the lack of training is not enough, Residential Life staff are also underpaid. This year, FYCs made $2,400 with an extra $200 that came after asking. This is around 58% of what they should be paid – about $4,500 – under Vermont’s minimum wage law. However, since they are classified as student leaders, there is a loophole that allows the college to pay them less. After a series of meetings this past semester, the stipend was raised to $3,150. A position on Residential Life is advertised as an employment opportunity, and for students who need to work, this is a disincentive. Even if students do not need to work on campus, they are being told to do more, but their pay and training are not reflecting the increase in tasks.

The SGA, with the help of many concerned Residential Life staff members, has proposed a bill that will attempt to address the gaps. First, the pay for the job should reflect the minimum wage law in Vermont. The college cannot ask students to do more, like have a required amount of hours, without raising how much they are paid. Also, training for Residential Life should include CPR and First Aid. FYCs are often first responders since the CRDs do not reside in the First-Year resident halls. They should not be dealing with violence, injuries and alcohol without training. Finally, a position should be created for a Senior Residential Advisor (SRA) that mirrors what used to be the role of the CRA. This position could be a recently graduated student who contracts with the college to fill in the support gaps. The SRA could also be a senior student who does this job in exchange for a lighter course load or as credit for a class. While the specifics of the role has not been communicated, living in First-Year dorms could be included.

Over winter break, there was an email sent out with an updated pay scale, but it did not address the issues in training or support. The SGA and Residential Life staff members hope this bill can attempt to address the remaining issues. The purpose of a Residential Life team is to foster and support a robust residential learning community, an important counterpart to academics, but they cannot do that without the skills or pay. We as The Campus Editorial Board propose that this bill passes. If this bill is not approved, people will be less inclined to apply and Residential Life will be in crisis.

Editor’s note: Our board includes members of Residential Life staff, past and present. We invited Kyle Wright to our editorial meeting to help us understand his legislation, and our News team met with administrators to discuss the issue. Our managing editor, Will DiGravio, played no part in the discussing, writing or editing of this editorial due to his past involvement in Residential Life negotiations.

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