Editorial: ResLife staffing problems require reform

Greek life is only one of many aspects of student life being examined by the Student Life Review Committee. Other facets of student life, including residential strategy and experience at Tufts, are also under examination.

The Office of Residential Life and Learning’s (ResLife) bungling of their Sophomore Survey — the same editable Google Docs document was sent to the entire sophomore class — serves as a reminder that ResLife’s practices also need review. The survey document released quickly became an unintelligible mess until ResLife revised it.

ResLife is one of the most vital departments on campus, and it therefore deserves a high level of scrutiny. Almost every student lives in dorms operated by ResLife for at least two years. For students living on campus, the office plays a huge role in determining their residential experience.

This is why it is so troubling to hear the various issues Resident Assistants (RAs) have had with ResLife. RAs have highlighted several specific issues, including disjointed communication and unclear expectations from upper-level staff, and many said they would not recommend the position to others. More worryingly, however, many RAs have had negative experiences with central office staff — which includes ResLife Director Yolanda King, Associate Director of ResLife Jerome Holland, Jr. and Assistant Director for Community and Judicial Affairs Carrie Ales — and see them as immune to criticism.

RAs have expressed concerns about a lack of support from ResLife. For the entire fall 2016 semester, there was no Area Residence Director (ARD) for Area 1. Former ARD Tanya Mascary left at the end of spring 2016, according to a Sept. 14 Daily article, and ResLife could not find a replacement. It was an entire semester before Graduate Residence Directors were hired for the Area 1 buildings in the spring.

Through the entire fall semester and until the spring semester when GRDs were hired, Holland oversaw the area. It is too much to ask for an associate director who already has to manage the more than 3,000 students living in residential housing to also directly manage and supervise 21 RAs.

These staffing issues have been going on for the past two years. An Oct. 1, 2015 Daily article highlighted the understaffing problem ResLife faced at that time, and this issue still persists.

For example, before this academic year started, former ResLife Programming Coordinator Liz Hartford left Tufts for another institution. That position, according to the ResLife website, still remains vacant. The current special projects coordinator, Brittney Washington, only joined the team in February, resulting in another semester-long vacancy in the position during the fall 2016 semester.

Why have these structural staffing problems continued?

RAs and their direct supervisors evaluate each other and deliver those evaluations to the central office staff, which includes Holland, King and Ales. However, there are no formal evaluations of ResLife leadership nor formal procedures for RAs and their direct supervisors to level complaints they may have about central office staff members.

Moving forward, the Student Life Review Committee should create systems to supervise all areas of ResLife staff. This would enable RAs and other students to give more honest and critical feedback, which they cannot do currently.

For students at Tufts who have suggestions for the committee, contact information is available at http://president.tufts.edu/student-life-review-committee/.

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