Looking to improve student support systems and efficiency, the Office of Campus Life has turned a critical eye on its own operations. With its focus on a number of intra-office changes as well as procedures for student event planning, Campus Life continues to reevaluate its role and effectiveness as the centralized administrative support for student initiatives and a dynamic and cohesive residential community.
Starting next year, the four positions of Campus Life Coordinators (CLCs) will be replaced by two Residential Life Coordinators (RLCs) and one Student Life Activities Coordinator. The new RLCs will have residential life roles similar to the current CLCs, but each will be responsible for two neighborhoods instead of one. The Spencer and Wood Neighborhood RLC will have a corollary role as Queer Life Coordinator, while the Dodd and Currier RLC will also serve as Community Engagement Coordinator. One staff position will be cut.
Assistant Director of Campus Life Aaron Gordon and Campus Life Director Doug Schiazza listed a number of reasons for the staffing changes. Both agreed that the two new RLC positions will streamline many of the processes and encourage cooperation between Neighborhood Governance Boards (NGBs).
With fewer staff who dedicate 50 percent instead of 75 percent of their time effort to residential life, total time spent on residential life will be reduced by a third.
“We see several times of the year where [residential life duties] are really intense, but there are several times of the year when it doesn’t take nearly as much,” Schiazza said. “We feel comfortable with this decision.”
Schiazza added that Campus Life has seen an increase in the need for student activities support this year, leading to the decision to create a new position dedicated solely to that function and to the development of student leadership. According to Schiazza, 25 percent of Dodd CLC Katie Kamieniecki’s effort is listed as contributing towards student activities. However, Kamieniecki is now spending up to 50 percent of her time with programmatic support and leadership training. “We’ve seen increasing numbers of students wanting to program and wanting to do it right,” Schiazza said.
Since the CLC positions are designed as two-year starting positions, Kamieniecki and Spencer CLC Arif Smith will be leaving at the end of the year. Smith, who also worked with the MCC as Minority Coalition (MinCo) liaison, has been an active member of campus dance groups Kusika and Ritmo Latino, alongside his extensive work in MCC programming. Among other accomplishments, Kamieniecki has organized senior week and life skills programming events, from Iron Chef to car workshops.
The two remaining CLCs, Tim Leonard and David Schoenholtz will act as Student Life Activities Coordinator and the Dodd and Currier RLC with a corollary in the Center for Community Engagement, respectively. Schoenholtz is currently the CLC for Currier Neighborhood, with a corollary role with Academic Resource Center. In addition to his corollary role in Community Engagement, Leonard is the current CLC for Wood Neighborhood.
Campus Life will be hiring one new staff member for the position of RLC in Spencer and Wood Neighborhoods with a 50 percent effort corollary as Queer Life Coordinator. Along with working on residential life issues with Spencer and Wood NGBs, the RLC will be responsible for advising Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) students, programs and issues.
Assistant Director of the Multicultural Center Kareem Khubchandani currently holds the position of Queer Life Coordinator and intends to leave the College at the end this year. He explained that his two current roles will be divided between the new assistant director, who will advise MinCo, and the new RLC.
“The MinCo liaison is a very ambiguous position, and so for a new person coming into the job, it’s very unsupportive for them to come in and figure out what to do,” Khubchandani said of Smith’s current corollary role, “The Queer Life position is more concrete.” Khubchandani listed organizing welcoming receptions for LGBTQ students and advising the Eph Rainbow Alliance as two of the several tasks the new RLC will fulfill.
Khubchandani added that the College has encountered difficulties in finding an assistant director with experience and interest in LGBTQ affairs.
Similarly, the corollary position with Community Engagement is the expansion of a long collaboration between Campus Life and Community Engagement. Schoenholtz, who will have a 50 percent time effort, up from Leonard’s current 25 percent time effort, will be the fourth CLC to work with Community Engagement. Past tasks have included organizing Dead Week service trips, winter servicing of houses and support for student groups.
The roles for Leonard and the new RLC, however, will be loosely defined. “There are a few specifically assigned tasks,” Gordon said, “We like to leave some flexibility for growth as positions change and people bring in new perspectives and new ideas.”
The CLC program began in 2002 with the initial hiring of four CLCs by the Office of Community Life. Schiazza joined the College as director of residential and student life in fall of 2003 from Union College, where he had served as the dean of residential life and campus life. In 2004, the Office of Student Activities combined with the Office of Community Life to formalize the Office of Campus Life, changing Schiazza’s title to director of Campus Life.
From 2005 to 2006, the number of CLCs was reduced to three, with the addition of a second assistant director position focusing on residential life. In 2006 to 2007, with the first year of the neighborhood system, the number of CLCs was again restored to four.
CLCs have also seen their collateral positions change and develop over the years. During the first year, CLCs worked with the Chaplain’s Office, MCC, club sports and a general position to cover other student activities. Currently, CLCs hold collateral roles in the Academic Resource Center, Community Engagement, MCC and leadership and development.
Student-initiated events planning
Students may also see changes in terms of event planning. Six new committees – Event Planning Basics Workshop, Online Registration Form, Building Use and Set-up, Contract, Host/Server Education and Publicity/Calendar – have been formed to possibly revamp event planning and consider leadership development opportunities on campus.
Discussions for a more formalized event planning process began earlier this semester in discussions between Schiazza and Director of Campus Safety Jean Thorndike. College Council (CC) was asked before spring break to submit names of interested students to form discussion committees, which met for the first time this past week.
“We see [event planning] done on the fly. Right now we’re teaching students individually when they walk through the door with an idea for a program,” Schiazza said. “Many students are surprised that having an event on campus is oftentimes more complicated than just saying, ‘I want to do this.’” He added, “What we’re hoping is that instead of 200 or 300 individuals or more retraining and retraining, we can get a bunch of people at a time and get them up to speed on the basics of planning an event right away.”
Dean Merrill also discussed the difficulties encountered by the many campus offices involved in planning events. “We live in an age where any event engages external issues,” Merrill said. “Students might not want to think about issues like fire safety and liability, but we need to make sure that they’re covered.”
According to the proposal distributed by Campus Life, students could be required to complete annually a course offered by Campus Life, Student Leadership Development 101: Event Planning Basics, in order to “receive programmatic support from campus offices.” Club and neighborhood officers could also be required to take a one-time additional course in Student Leadership 102: Student Officer Basics, while individuals wishing to serve alcohol or be paid as a host/server could have to take two other classes in alcohol education. Like other organization officers, treasurers would complete Student Officer Basics, but would also have to pass an additional class in Treasurer Training each year in order to receive financial support from campus offices, including financial sign-offs from administrators with the processing of financial paperwork in the Controller’s Office. The classes could add up to four hours of training for student participants.
However, CC Co-Presidents Peter Nurnberg ’09 and Jeremy Goldstein ’09 emphasized that the proposal is highly tentative and the subject of committee discussion. “The right students are on those committees – they will debate with Campus Life and have their views reflected,” Nurnberg said. He added that it was important to see the new processes in light of the full context, particularly the growing pressures on Campus Life from various administrative and staff offices.
Even in this stage of the process, some students are already concerned that the new classes may act as roadblocks and deterrents for future events. While acknowledging genuine problems encountered by student event planners and the need to improve communication between staff and students, Eve Streicker ’09 worried that the new approach, while easing the burden on various campus offices, may compromise student life. “The fact that the problems and solutions were pointed out by two staff members without student involvement just underlines that point,” she said. A former member of College Council, ACE, Frosh Council and Sophomore Council, Streicker has had significant event planning experience and most recently chaired the 100 Days Dance.
Streicker added that the proposal also may lead to a “cookie cutter” approach, ignoring the personal and creative element of the College’s social atmosphere. “Campus Life is trying to make it so that students can know the process and then go into it,” she said. “I am a big proponent of people coming up with the ideas and going through the process,” Streicker warned that the campus may see an increase in unregistered parties.
The various committees hope to submit their final reports by May 5. A final report will be submitted to Dean Merrill, Vice President for Operations Steve Klass and other senior staff for approval on May 8.