The introduction of the reorganized upperclassmen residential life system, governed by the four Neighborhood Leadership Teams (NLTs), has not been seamless. The Housing Coordinator position, the successor of the former Baxter Fellows, remains unfilled for both Dodd House and Currier House, and the position was filled only recently for Wood House. For the time being, the neighborhood directors of Dodd and Currier Neighborhood, Donnie Kost ’15 and Peter Drews ’14, respectively, are taking on these roles. Dodd, Currier and Wood Houses are the hub houses for their neighborhoods and are typically predominately inhabited by seniors and juniors.
Housing Coordinators are students who volunteer their time to bring their neighbors together and to represent their peers’ interests to the NLTs. Housing Coordinators also undergo training so that they can offer adequate skills and knowledge passed down from the myriad resources on campus, such as the Davis Center and the Zilkha Center, that can help their housemates with small conflicts.
Part and parcel of the lack of self-nominations for Housing Coordinators is that many have come onboard after the formal training sessions last month. These latecomers currently serving have not undergone the mandatory formal training. According to Dean Bolton, the lack of a trained coordinator is not a law or liability issue, but rather a community issue. The very institution of such trained students in upperclassman housing is only a few years old.
Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, views the Housing Coordinator’s role as multi-faceted. In addition to helping build community through social events, they can take a role as “mediator,” someone “who’s trained in helping people with personal crises or housing-related issues by helping them link with existing resources,” referring to the various services, programs and offices on campus. “By looking at the various elements of the training program this year, it will give you a great sense of how we want the roles to evolve,” Klass said.
According to Kost, this year’s training included programs on such topics as substance abuse, substance-related first aid, mental health awareness, fire safety, multiple identity issues, sustainability and broad conflict resolution.
In other facets, however, the effects are present and certain. Members of still-deficient NLTs have scrambled to pick up the slack of missing coordinators, trying to take on as much of their responsibilities as possible, in addition to interviewing new candidates as quickly as possible. However, the persisting lack of housing coordinators may mean buildings without coordinators will miss out on the opportunity for community gatherings such as dorm-wide snacks or they may have trouble communicating their ideas to their NLTs.
While some NLTs remain incomplete, leadership for the NLTs believe that the roles will be filled quickly. According to Patricia Leahey-Hays, assistant director for student involvement, the fact that the shortage was concentrated in certain neighborhoods indicates that the new qualities of the position of Housing Coordinator were not advertised well enough; Kost points to a certain apathy regarding neighborhood identity as well as misconceptions about the nature of the position as contributing to the vacancies. Both indicate their supply of new candidates has been lacking neither in quantity nor excitement, and neither expressed any overt plans to bolster self-nominations next year, as they believe the issue will resolve itself. Klass echoes their perspective, predicting that, “as the program defines itself, the various dimensions of these roles will fill in.”