Shrinking in size from 10 people to seven in the past few months, the Office of Campus Life has been forced to restructure and redistribute responsibilities among its staff.
Last spring, Campus Life replaced the four Campus Life Coordinators (CLCs) with two Residential Life Coordinators (RLCs) and one Student Life Activities Coordinator. However, a second RLC was never hired, and thus both divisions of Campus Life – Student Life Activities and Residential Life – are each overseen by one person. With the recent departure of another staff member, Jess Vega, Campus Life has shrunk even further.
Several measures have been taken to deal with short staffing. Paresky student assistants now work at the reception desk at Campus Life, answering the telephone and greeting visitors. Campus Life staff have also taken on more responsibilities, from picking up the mail to booking room reservations. Doug Schiazza, director of Campus Life, views these changes positively. “It’s really nice to have more student interaction, with students greeting students and filling in the receptionist role,” he said. “Staff members have begun picking up more day-to-day office tasks. I’d say the whole group is working really well as a team.”
The restructuring has resulted in a greater workload for the lone RLC, Tim Leonard, and Student Life Activities Coordinator, David Schoenholtz. “It is more work, but it’s also more consistent in that each person has one primary area to focus on,” Schiazza said.
In the past, coordinators were expected to balance their Residential Life duties and collateral roles in Student Activities, the Office of Community Engagement, the Multicultural Center and Academic Resources. “The restructuring changes, in my case at least, have helped me better understand my responsibilities,” Schoenholtz said. “Last year there were numerous general responsibilities for the four CLCs. Since I am the only RLC I know by and large what my job requires.”
The coordinators, however, are not entirely alone in managing their responsibilities. Leonard and Schoenholtz have enlisted the help of Aaron Gordon and Jessica Gulley, both assistant directors of Campus Life. Gordon has advised Schoenholtz on the neighborhood system and the Baxter Fellow program. “It was a lot of work to plan Baxter Fellow training before the school year started, but thanks to Aaron Gordon, I had some much-needed help,” Schoenholtz said.
There was speculation, however, that giving responsibility of the Baxter Fellow Program to one individual would adversely affect its quality. Schoenholtz believes this is not the case. He is still able to maintain close communication with the Baxter Fellows. “I meet with each Baxter Fellow regularly to discuss what is going on in their houses and to see if there is anything they need from me or the Office of Campus Life,” Schoenholtz said.
Current Baxter Fellows have been responding positively to the new system as well. “The system we’re using now, with David in charge of all of us, seems to be working well. I think it gives a good bit of consistency to the program, because one person knows what’s going on across all four neighborhoods,” said Jen Oswald, Bryant Baxter Fellow.
However, some Baxter Fellows pointed out that the system leaves them to fend for themselves in many ways.
Other than the Campus Life-run Baxter Fellow training at the beginning of the year, the neighborhoods are largely in charge of further organization of the system. Spencer Neighborhood, for example, holds weekly meetings with both board members and Baxter Fellows and also organizes activities and training sessions for them. However, this is only helpful for Fellows who choose to attend the meetings.
The restructuring prompted by short staffing is likely to stay in place considering that Campus Life is unable to hire new staff because of the squeeze on resources prompted by the financial crisis. “If the hiring situation changes, hopefully there would be strong consideration to hire another person,” Schiazza said. “It depends on where the College is economically.”
Dean Merrill stressed that, in the current financial situation, the College has been careful in its hiring practices. “This is part of the message of how we’re responding to the financial problems: being extremely careful about how we replace staff, only for essential vacancies,” Merrill said. “We’re keeping track of where the pressure points are and evaluating the situation as we go along.”
With no hiring in its near future, Campus Life staff will continue with their increased responsibilities. “We’re busy, and we have a lot of responsibilities, but we’re definitely staying afloat,” Schiazza said.