By Katie Farkas
Within the past year, Adelphi has made significant changes to the way the residence halls on campus are staffed and run. As each spring semester comes to a close, resident assistants graduate and new students are hired and the residence hall directors, for the most part, remain consistent. But after the spring semester of 2021, an almost entirely new staff of resident hall directors were brought in, a major change that Julia Smith, the president of the Resident Student Association (RSA), said left many students, including undergraduate resident assistants, unprepared and still experiencing what they said is a lack of clear communication about why these changes were made and what the impact on them would be. The result, she said, is that her e-board is feeling overwhelmed and confused about the place that RSA holds within the housing department and in leading the resident student body.
“If professional staff changes, this information needs to be made readily available in case of emergencies and safety concerns,” said Smith, a junior interdisciplinary major. “Residents have lost mentors from the previous staff and general students and other Adelphi staff have lost leaders and colleagues within the community. When changes are made, public announcements should be in order to both part ways and greet the new staff. The Adelphi community at large needs to be made aware of professional staff changes because a new face impacts the functionality and dynamic of how a residence hall runs. Residents and community members need stability and offering updates and knowledge about who is in charge offers that.”
As stated on the Adelphi website under housing (as of September 16, 2021), “each residence hall is supervised by a full-time, professional residence hall director (RHD) who is committed professionally and personally to the concept of the residence hall as a center of learning. The RHD lives and works in the hall throughout the year and supervises a staff of trained graduate and undergraduate resident assistants (RAs).”
But this fall semester that is no longer the case. Instead of seven RHDs supervising seven residence halls, this semester and onwards there will be four assistant directors (ADs) running the seven residence halls on Adelphi’s campus. According to Guy Seneque, director of the Office of Residential Life and Housing, “it's not unusual to have a professional staff member cover one more residence hall at a time especially when there are vacancies. This is a common practice at many colleges. These positions are called area coordinators.”
Sentwali Bakari, Ph.D., vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, said the restructure is designed to enhance efficiency while utilizing unique skills that enhance the residential experience of students. “It's intended to improve students' overall academic, personal and professional success and career readiness. The realignment reflects additional department and staff responsibilities and accountability,” he said, adding that this information was communicated to the RAs. “Resident Assistants were notified by e-mail during the summer about the restructure and introduced to new assistant directors [during their week of training].”
Seneque said that “staffing departures are not typically announced to resident students, especially during the summer months. However, we do require new staff members to introduce themselves to their respective residential communities. New Assistant Directors introduced themselves to their respective communities through move-in, opening hall/floor meetings, student conduct meetings and opening week events. Staff information was also made available on the Residential Life webpage.”
However, Smith said that no students, as well as their families, were directly made aware that the supervision for all residence halls on Adelphi’s campus was being cut in half.
“I was reached out to by my former RHD advisor who has left the university. I was not told in writing by any current Adelphi staff. When staff changes are occurring, I am not being kept in the loop,” Smith said. “As the President of RSA, the residential governing body on campus, the lack of communication from the housing department has been disheartening. The executive boards of RSA and the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), two student-led housing organizations, would not have been informed of these changes either or met the new staff, including our advisors, if I had not pushed to be introduced to them.”
Miguel Velasquez, a resident assistant and junior history major, concurred. “I do believe that [resident students] should understand that there have been changes, but that these changes don’t mean complete absences [of staff] from the living spaces. The students should be introduced to this new staff so that they can put a face to the names they see. These directors are sending tons of important information and make themselves available to assist the residents, so I think it’s important they know who they are speaking to and who will help take care of whatever situations they may encounter while living on campus.”
Other current resident assistants were contacted to comment on this situation, but they expressed that being quoted here might affect their likelihood of being rehired in the future, so they declined to be quoted.
Along with the significant downsize in the number of staff, the new assistant directors have also been given additional responsibilities.
“Some duties include: providing residential assessment strategies based on learning outcomes and operational effectiveness. The goal is to facilitate residential first-year and second-year retention initiatives. Staff will also identify common trends and barriers impacting residential students' success and collectively strategize success pathways,” Bakari said. “Responsibility for creating and leading strategies that facilitate multi-faceted marketing that promote and elevate residential living and learning experience. Other responsibilities of the Assistant Directors is to provide oversight, support and implementation of curricular-based student learning initiatives and co-curricular education that promotes residential students' leadership development.”
But Smith said the impact of these changes on the residence halls and the staff, students and organizations within them, is still being felt.
“The staff care and I see it,” she said. “However, with the significant changes enacted in the past month and a half, they are busy adjusting and cannot tend to every sphere they are needed in. My e-board and I have had to shift from planning the year to assisting the new staff. While these transitional periods are normal for any new staff, the lack of communication even with the professional staff is evident when they are confused on campus protocol (such as hall attending) and student staff and leaders are having to fill the gaps.”
Smith explained that compared to last year, hall attendant procedures such as the guest policy have changed due to Covid-19. However, she said that policies regarding a hall attendant being in the booth every night from 6 pm - 4 am is a matter that should not have changed from year to year, despite staff transitions.
“This safety protocol was not prioritized during the first two weeks of the semester,” she said. “Not hiring hall attendants promptly during the first two weeks of classes on top of the lack of education on residence hall safety, including each resident and guest swiping into the halls and showing an attendant their Covid-19 screenings, has impacted the safety of the buildings.”
Smith is not sure why the ADs weren’t informed and enforcing this policy, but “it has put a strain on the duties of RAs and newly hired hall attendants.”
Smith said that the lack of communication from Residential Life and Housing has altered both the workflow and relationships of all student staff and the executive board of the RSA. “The professional staff from the previous year was tasked with informing their own Resident Assistants with the limited knowledge they had about the upcoming year,” she said. “The lack of universal and consistent communication with student staff has put pressure on RAs and the RSA e-board to transition and process change without clear guidance for this current year with many protocols and regulations changing due to Covid-19 as well.”
In response to a question about communication issues, Seneque said, “Communication can always be improved. We will assess how communication regarding staffing changes can be improved for the future.”
The RSA is a student-led governing body that is the voice for resident concerns. Though sometimes difficult, voicing concerns, comments and feedback is critical for promoting a positive living environment. RSA can amplify student needs through both identified and anonymous protected conversations. RSA can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and through our Instagram at @adelphirsa.