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Residence Life staff face challenges amid pandemic

Junior counselors (JC) and residence advisors (RA) have faced a unique set of challenges during the pandemic. Tasked with their usual responsibilities of community building and support for students, Residence Life staff members must now enforce COVID-19 policies, a more complicated balance. 

JCs work within first-year dorms to help first-year students socialize and build community. Residence Life staff now create online programming to ensure adherence to COVID-19 guidelines. In past years, Residence Life staff held events for their hall every other week. With programming being mainly online, the number of events have doubled. 

Joshua Lee, assistant dean of students, oversees Residence Life staff. According to Lee, Residence Life has changed its programming guidelines for JCs and RAs. Instead of having themed events, like wellness or education, the weekly meetings are designed around the newfound need for a frequency of connections, Lee said. 

Alongside programming, Residence Life staff are expected to report any violation of COVID-19 policies through a community incident form. The new expectations of Residence Life staff have increased their feelings of responsibility, first-time JC in Hoyme Hall Lila Graham ’22 said. 

“If the JCs aren’t reporting it, nobody knows it’s happening,” Graham said. 

Staffers are supposed to report any incident they see—even ones that happen outside their respective building. This heightened awareness creates a feeling of having to jump into the Residence Life role immediately upon seeing rule violations, even when walking through Stav Hall or the quad, said Ella Koenig ’22, a JC in Ellingson Hall. 

“It’s almost like you’re in that mode all of the time,” Koenig said. 

The dual role of enforcer and community builder raises concerns among Residence Life staff. According to Graham, there are worries that if students see staffers as enforcers, they will be less inclined to contact their JC or RA with concerns. 

Lee assures staff members that the majority of students wish to stay safe and remain on campus, which helps foster more respect for JCs and RAs as enforcers. 

“When they see me as a policy enforcer, they see that as an aspect of building community,” Koenig said. 

Despite the challenges, the RAs and JCs are committed to doing their best by their residents and the student body.

“The reason I wanted to be a JC is because I thought it was important,” Koenig said. “With COVID-19, the role would only be more important.” 


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