After transitional summer, Student Life integrates new staff, policies

The Office of Campus Life was restructured over the summer and renamed the Office of Student Life. The office’s new title and a number of staffing changes were made to reflect a new mission statement that focuses on student leadership and building community on campus. Additionally, members of the office now report to the vice president for campus life as opposed to the dean of the College.

Doug Schiazza, the office’s director, has overall responsibility for the office and is a consultant to the VP for campus life, Steve Klass. His role involves overseeing upper-class residential programs, other housing procedures, student activities and involvement, student centers and campus-wide room bookings.

The restructuring also included the creation of a new position, titled interim assistant director for student involvement. Ben Lamb was hired in this role and assumed his duties on Aug. 1; he is responsible for helping students explore leadership roles and for fostering identity development. Specifically, Lamb will advise student leaders, plan workshops, facilitate student activities and collaborate with other departments regarding student programming.

“The Office of Student Life is a centralized hub for students for everything from housing and event planning to leadership development and student organization guidance,” Lamb said. “Our main goal is to help facilitate productive out-of-class experiences and opportunities for students, and to give guidance as students grow and develop through their time here.”

According to Lamb, the process of transitioning was one that required much forethought and planning. “Ultimately, the decision to actually have a VP for campus life was made to really support the mission of the co-curricular experience of students here at Williams,” he said. “Having the Office of Student Life as part of the VP for campus life’s world will ultimately provide even more opportunities for student development outside of the classroom.”

“The restructuring going on in Student Life reflects the change in Student Life’s approach to their mission in a couple of ways,” Klass said. “We have started to think more intentionally about what it means to be a student leader on campus as a central aspect of student involvement and to consider student involvement in addition to student activity planning. The focus used to be more on scheduled events and logistics.” Klass also mentioned that the Office of Student Life is seeking to fill a position that will oversee housing programs for upperclassmen, including the Baxter Fellow system. Interviews are ongoing this week.

The change in the name of the office reflects the new goals of the Office of Student Life, according to Dean Bolton. “We decided to change the name because ‘Campus Life’ implies that you are running the campus, particularly the buildings and grounds, and Campus Life was not in charge of that,” she said. “They are in charge of two particular aspects of community and development, focusing on individual lives of students as they are lived out in organizations they are a part of and run and on the way they interact in their housing situations.”

The Office of Student Life also saw additional staffing changes. First, Aaron Gordon, previously assistant director of Campus Life, has departed from the Office of Student Life to join Klass’s office as deputy to the VP for campus life. Also, Jessica Gulley-Ward, previously assistant director of Campus Life, has left the College.

Ellen Rougeau, student activities coordinator, is responsible for helping plan student events and now reports to Lamb, with whom she’ll be working closely. Student Centers Coordinator Schuyler Hall ’10 is responsible for managing the daily operations of the student centers on campus, including Goodrich coffee bar, which was not previously under his jurisdiction. Gail Rondeau will remain student housing coordinator, and her role is to help manage student housing concerns.

There is an available opening for assistant director for upperclass residential programs, and the job includes managing the neighborhood system and the Baxter Fellow program. Schiazza said the interview process is underway. “My goal is to have the successful candidate begin as soon as possible this fall,” he said.

Additionally, the new Muslim chaplain, Bilal Ansari, resides in the new Office of Student Life, although he is officially a part of the chaplain’s office and the Center for Community Engagement.

The office arrangement has been adjusted since last year “in a way that works much better and feels a lot more comfortable,” according to Schiazza. “There’s a great vibe in the office – we all really love being here, working with students and with each other.”

One major change already implemented by the office is the new poster policy. “As many people have likely noticed over time, as the year goes on, the walls and other vertical surfaces in Paresky become increasingly cluttered with posters, advertisements, informational notices, etc.,” Lamb said. He also noted several other issues: Many posted items remained hanging long past the dates of their respective events, the amount of paper used did not reflect sustainable paper usage, posters were often hung up with the wrong adhesives which caused damage to the walls and the student staff’s time in managing the posters was not being used efficiently.

This year, all posters that any student, staff, faculty or other group wants posted must be brought to the Office of Student Life by each Wednesday night before the event. The office will not hang more than 15 posters for each announcement, and it will stamp the posters with an expiration date and have them posted in Paresky and Goodrich by student employees.

“We felt it timely to implement the new policy as early in the year as possible in order to integrate it into the campus culture,” Lamb said.

According to Lamb, a new chalking policy was also formed after a lot of conversation about the fact that oftentimes chalk does not come off of certain surfaces such as the pillars of Paresky and Chapin even after power-washing and rainfall. “Rather than flat out saying ‘no chalking’ we felt that allowing it on [horizontal surfaces not under cover] that will get the most natural cleaning from the rain was a much better option and one that will protect the buildings from further permanent marking,” Lamb said.