By Jackie Cannon, News Editor
For the first time in its history, the Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Cabinet delivered a “Vote of No Confidence” in the Office of Residence Life and Housing. Following issues that various members of the campus community have encountered with Residence Life and Housing, some Holy Cross students, led by SGA Co-President Emily Breakell ’17, took it upon themselves to address these issues. They drafted a statement to accompany the Vote of No Confidence to Residence Life, stating their complaints with the hope that Residence Life will be able to increase its collaboration and cooperation with students in the future.
“What was particularly concerning to me was the number of fabulous student leaders I know that felt incredibly discouraged in their various RA/HRA positions,” said Breakell. Throughout the semester, she has spoken to students of varying degrees of involvement with Residence Life, including past and present Resident Assistants (RAs). With this statement, Breakell and other students seek to begin a conversation about issues they see with Residence Life. The statement accompanying the Vote of No Confidence is as follows:
“In review of the 2016-2017 academic year thus far, and in light of the continued lack of professionalism exhibited by the Residence Life and Housing staff, lack of student consideration in the off-campus process, a lack of office and procedural transparency, and a lack of basic accountability to which the office is held, the SGA Cabinet votes no-confidence (18 yea votes, 0 nay votes, 2 abstentions) in the Office of Residence Life and Housing. Our hope is that the Office will take serious steps to improve their relationships with the paraprofessionals that they work with and the greater campus community. The most prominent grievances identified with fellow students are listed below.
Notably, following a party in December involving members of the Resident Assistant (RA) community, a lack of communication from the office left many RAs confused and stressed during sanctioning processes. RAs questioned why similar situations were sanctioned much differently, with punishments ranging from terminations to probation (with and without pay) for varying lengths of time. While we do recognize that each sanctioning case is different and should be treated as such, overwhelmingly, RAs, the students they serve, and others in the community found this process to be unfair and inconsistent. The aftermath of this has further propagated a great deal of uncertainty, frustration, and low morale within the RA community. The SGA Cabinet wants to acknowledge and validate this widespread frustration, as concerns have arisen from many students in the community.
While the SGA Cabinet has worked with the Office to increase transparency in the Off-Campus Approval Process, it remains that a great number of otherwise eligible students were denied from off-campus housing this year. Lack of concern for how this might affect students who were not expecting a denial to live off-campus demonstrates that the office does not aptly include students in their processes and does not sufficiently consider student opinion before taking action.
Additionally, RAs are held to inconsistent professional standards. For example, while RAs are expected to attend all staff meetings–even when planned at the last minute–and prioritize their RA job above all else, it is well known that basic standards of professionalism will not be reciprocated by Office staff, e.g., reasonable respect for RAs’ privacy and lack of decorum. Rumors and gossip plague the Office and frequently entrench students in difficult situations in which many other people know about their employment status before they do. Staff fail to navigate student conflict with rapport, fail to coherently supervise students, and often, fail to be available during business hours in the Office despite its convenient location on Hogan 1.
While Residence Life and Housing is structurally situated under leadership in Student Affairs, RAs and other students recognize that this accountability falls short. RA concerns are largely left unattended to unless action is taken by an independent organization–e.g., the SGA–because trust is placed in the Office, rather than in student experience. One RA, echoing concerns from others in the community, suggests that there is virtually “no standard by which the Community Development Coordinators (CDCs) nor any professionals in Residence Life hold themselves to; yet student Resident Assistants are held to the highest standards of being examples for others and maintaining the image of a student leader.” Again, we as the SGA implore the Office to hold themselves to a higher standard, and the College to institutionalize more meaningful accountability. After all, if Holy Cross is going to pride itself as a residential institution and deny students from off-campus living privileges, it should take the quality of residential life on campus seriously.”