Campus Life alters Baxter Fellows program

Students who are chosen to be 2010-11 Baxter Fellows will play a large role in the changes Campus Life made in light of the recently released Neighborhood Review Committee (NRC) report. The Office of Campus Life has been working to implement these changes, which include the addition of Baxter Fellows for each floor of larger houses; the introduction of two new positions, Head Baxter Fellow and Quiet Housing Baxter Fellow; and an alteration in compensation for the Fellows due to new responsibilities.

“The Neighborhood Review Committee made the recommendation that the Baxter Fellow Program be expanded and more emphasis be placed on building house communities,” said Joya Sonnenfeldt ’10, an NRC member who worked closely with Campus Life on the revamped Baxter Fellows program. “Campus Life then worked in conjunction with current Governance Boards and Baxter Fellows to revise the Baxter Fellows program. Though Doug [Schiazza, director of Campus Life], Aaron [Gordon, assistant director of Campus Life] and I worked together on the NRC, the new Baxter Fellows program was not designed by NRC but by Campus Life with the help of Neighborhood Governance Boards.”

According to Gordon, the changes to the program stemmed from the forums that the NRC held in preparation for its report. “There were many comments made suggesting that the idea behind Baxter Fellows program was sound, and that with changes and modifications, it could be expanded and continued as part of the ongoing changes in residential life,” Gordon said. Part I of the NRC report was released March 2, and Part II on April 27.

Gordon added that the choice to increase the number of Baxter Fellows came in part from the difficulties with visibility in larger houses. “Many people said that they might not see their Baxter Fellow in a big building, so we increased the size of our staff,” he said. “Our goal is to have a Baxter Fellow on almost every floor so that the Baxter Fellow can spend more time getting familiar with and more involved with their residents.” He noted that Baxter Fellows were tasked to build community on a micro-level.

“What we’re trying to do is stage the expansion of the program thoughtfully, and not just do a sudden shift in the responsibilities and expectations for the Baxter Fellows program,” Dean Merrill said. She said that the two main responsibilities of Baxter Fellows that the College wants to address are their role in conflict resolution and their role in establishing a sense of house community. Merrill said that Campus Life would be evaluating next year whether the ratios of Baxter Fellows to house residents was appropriate in all the houses and dorms on campus.

Sonnenfeldt believes that increasing the number of Baxter Fellows will have a positive impact. “While it is unrealistic to ask two Baxter Fellows to get to know over 100 residents in a house, it is not only realistic, but likely, that the Baxter Fellow will be able to get to know the residents on his or her floor and begin to help them meet each other,” she said. “Hopefully segmenting houses will help to foster community and raise the level of respect residents have for each other.”

In addition, Baxter Fellows will now be expected to attend training in the fall in order to be prepared for a larger role in community building and in the mediation of house conflict.

There will be two tiers of pay for normal Baxter Fellows. Level A Baxter Fellows will make a $600 dollar stipend for undertaking the typical responsibilities of the Baxter Fellow. Besides community building and conflict mediation, those responsibilities include serving as a communicator for students with campus organizations at a student’s request and hosting house snacks periodically. Level B Baxter Fellows, whose positions will be more involved because they will be in charge of space reservations for their buildings, will make $850 dollars. Level B Baxter Fellows will be the only Baxter Fellows for the entirety of Spencer, Brooks, Perry and Wood. There will also be a Level B Baxter Fellow for the first and second floor of Dodd and the ground and first floor of Currier.

The Quiet Housing Baxter Fellows will take on an even more widely expanded role. They will be expected to enforce the quiet housing guidelines, including the house’s minimum quiet hours of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. They will also be responsible for referring students who violate the quiet housing code to Campus Life. The Quiet Housing Baxter Fellows will be paid a Level C wage of $1000.

The position of Head Baxter Fellow was created for the purpose of helping Gordon manage the increase in personnel. There will be one Head Baxter Fellow per neighborhood. Each will make a $1000 dollar stipend in addition to his or her Level A, B or C pay.

“The position creates a layer that will help me supervise the Baxter Fellows by neighborhood and that will put a student in charge of some things that will be taken off of my plate,” Gordon said. “We need to have a responsible student who is in communication with me and with the neighborhood boards.”

Gordon said that Campus Life and the NRC have worked in tandem and that he forsees more changes going forward. “We expect it to be an evolution instead of instant change; there’s a recognition that when you try to build a program over time, you need some trial and error, and you need some consistency to see what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “One of the tricks has been that that the Baxter Fellow program has changed every year. We are hoping to get to a form that can be fundamentally the same annually, and also to grow interest in the program and try to get candidate pool we are looking for.”