Pitzer Residential Life bypasses Senate, claims student study space

Justin Blankson-Phipps PZ ’19 and Roshni Patel PZ ’20 work at the new Pitzer Residence Life office that was previously used as a student study space Feb 5. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

Pitzer College’s Residential Life moved its office into a popular study room on campus during winter break without approval from Pitzer’s Student Senate, upsetting senators.

Res Life moved into East Sanborn C300 “to provide increased resource access and staff support for our students and RA,” Director of Residential Life Kirsten Carrier wrote in an email to TSL.

The proposal for the change in office space was created in fall 2017, and C300 was selected for the switch because it was the “best location and most cost-effective for the college,” Carrier wrote.

Carrier said the change in office has been well-received by students because it creates “a more professional working space for our student Residence Life Office assistants, and a space more conducive to the everyday needs of residential students.”

The Res Life Office is also often used by resident assistants, including Justin Blankson-Phipps PZ ’19, who said he supports the move because the new area is “a lot more spacious, which means we get to organize it a lot better.”

There are also “two computers for the RAs now, which is really nice,” he added.

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Although Carrier said the Pitzer, Atherton and Sanborn Hall Council were consulted prior to the move, the former president of the three halls, Brendan Schultz PZ ’19, said the council unequivocally voted against the move.

According to Schultz, Res Life approached the council when he was president with a proposal for the move “as if they did need our approval … but we did not grant approval.” Four members of the council voted against the move and one abstained, he said.

Council representatives reached out to members of the Pitzer community and set up an online anonymous suggestion box, and Schultz does “not know anyone who spoke in favor or wrote in favor of the move.”

Pitzer Senate said it was also not consulted.

When other organizations want to take over a study room, “they have to get approval from Senate, then they have to get approval from student body,” said Clint Isom PZ ’20, a Senate vice president. It’s “a pretty lengthy process to get space allocated to them.”

Senators think administrative action that affects students should follow the same protocol as that of student-led groups, although current policy does not require administrators to do so.

“We find issue that an office of Pitzer can just bypass [this process and] it’s just concerning that the student voice wasn’t included more in this,” Isom said.

Since the new Res Life Office location was announced, the Senate has been working to create legislation clarifying its role in administrative changes that affect the student body, and passed a resolution reforming the space allocation process Sunday.

Despite this, the administration is not required to adhere to Senate resolutions until they are approved by the College Council, which is made up of students and faculty, Isom said. The resolution is “more of a declaration or an opinion than an actual policy,” Isom wrote in a message to TSL.

Isom is concerned that this administrative move will set a precedent for future changes in jurisdiction.

He worries that without legislation in place, the Pitzer administration could “colonize new study rooms and we’re not going to have any study spaces left over. We want to make sure that we can have a set process and deny somebody access if we deem it necessary,” he said.

Although Carrier described the change in space as an “even swap,” because it “allowed the college to convert the previously decentralized office spaces back into study rooms,” many students agree that the new office is superior.

Students valued the former study space especially because of its balcony. It is “prime real estate: third-floor balcony with a view of the mountains,” senator Isaiah Kramer PZ ’20 said.

According to Carrier, the deck “remains accessible from 9 a.m. to midnight for students’ and [Resident Assistants’] programming use.”

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