Scripps residential coordinator’s probation sparks outcry, demands on work reform

many students gather outside a scripps building
Students gathered Tuesday outside Scripps College’s Office of Student Engagement to support residential coordinators. (Courtesy: Maya Lynch SC ’22)

TW: Suicide, death, sexual assault

Scripps College residential coordinators are protesting the Nov. 8 probation of one of their members, the latest in a spate of grievances the team has reported with the college’s administration this semester. 

The RC in question was placed on probation for failing to report students’ rule-breaking behavior, an obligation that was “not within her job description,” according to an open letter signed by “the entire 2021-22 RC team” addressed to Scripps’s administration earlier this month. The letter, which includes a comprehensive list of concerns from RCs and their demands from administration, accompanied a petition for students to endorse their demands. 

On Tuesday, more than one hundred students gathered outside the Office of Student Engagement in solidarity with Scripps’s RCs, whose responsibilities include managing residential hall events and serving as liaisons between students and administrative staff. On behalf of the RCs, Esther Adeniji SC ’22 read out demands to ResLife staff in the OSE, followed by speeches from student representative Vivi Kraus SC ’22 and Scripps Associated Students President Maya Lynch SC ’22.

“I think [administrators] should address the disproportionality between the expectations of the role and the compensation being given,” Adeniji said. “More than anything, I want any student positions in ResLife to aim to preserve the well-being of our peers in a way that does not sever our connection to student life or our primary roles as students.”

The letter prefaced the RCs’ list of concerns and demands with a reminder of the 2017 RA strike following the death of fellow RA Tatissa Zunguze SC ’18. Among the demands from the 2016-17 RA staff who went on strike was that “Scripps College restructure the Residential Advisor role so it is more sustainable for students, and more closely embodies restorative justice.”

We are writing to you today because we believe the manner in which ResLife student staff is currently required to work is in breach of this past demand for student wellbeing and replicates the same mental stressors that contributed to Tatissa’s death and the conditions that created the strike in 2017,” the letter read.

The 2021-22 RC team is concerned with the insufficient training they received at the beginning of the semester to perform their duties. Compared to the 2019-20 RC team, which received an entire week of role-specific training, the 2021-22 RC team received sessions lasting one to two hours, the letter said.

The reduction in training this semester impacted their ability to handle emergency circumstances, students’ personal emergencies and be adequately prepared for On-Call weekends, the RCs said. They also didn’t receive conflict-resolution training until a month into the semester, by which time they had already been required to handle such situations. 

Additionally, the RCs were required to lead a conversation on sexual harrasment and assault at the News Student Programs and Orientation without having received adequate training on the topic, they said.

Although many student staff members expressed discomfort in leading these conversations due to both triggers and a lack of training, our concerns went unheard and we were forced to lead them anyway,” the letter read. 

A lack of support for RCs during this semester’s move-in process added to the students’ concerns. They reported being severely overworked, many working more than 100 hours in two weeks. Poor communication from administration regarding how many hours RCs had to clock in for their work during move-in weeks created confusion and uncertainty on whether they would get paid.

“Throughout the orientation period, we were not privy to schedules and plans until the last minute, which impeded our abilities to plan rest time for ourselves or adequately support our orientation groups, new students, and parents,” the letter read. 

The most pressing concern in the letter surrounded the administration’s expectations of RCs. According to the letter, RCs were repeatedly told throughout their training period and throughout the semester that they would not be required to police their peers, but administrators placed an RC on probation “for not reporting on the actions of other students,” the letter said.

RCs are expected to keep track of situations when the RC phone is called while the RC is scheduled to be on-call on their designated weekend. The RC who was put on probation was not on-call that weekend and therefore not required to keep track of any calls they received.

Despite speaking with administration about this incident and asking for more clarity on what their jobs entail, RCs were given “vague answers” and answers that were different from what was expected of them when they signed up for the job. 

“It has come to the point where we student ResLife staff are constantly worried about losing our jobs for reasons we are not privy to,” the letter read. “Please remember that students typically choose to pursue a ResLife job due to financial need, so a loss of this job could put their Scripps education at risk.”

Fve demands were highlighted in the letter, the first being to remove the RC in question from probation and erase her probation status from her records so that further employment eligibility across campus will not be affected. 

The second demand was to keep policing and reporting fellow students out of the RCs’ job description. 

“Being asked to police our fellow students poses an extremely harmful undue mental stressor on us as RCs, as it would completely blur the lines between student and employee, forcing us to constantly act in our role as RC,” the demand stated, further arguing that reporting on other students promotes a lack of safety and mistrust for the RCs. The letter explained that RCs reporting students for underage drinking could lead to an increase in binge drinking or unsupervised drinking, “something that can cause a lifelong unhealthy relationship to alcohol.”

The RCs also suggested promoting safer alcohol consumption through activities and educational tools in response to the administration’s concern of alcohol intoxication leading to students being hospitalized.  

The third demand centered around reworking residential life rules in the Guide to Student Life to emphasize restorative justice and be conducive to students’ wellbeing, safety and happiness. RC/CC representatives should be included in the amendments process, the letter said, suggesting that an outside restorative justice expert group be brought into this discussion as well.     

The fourth demand also fell along the lines of revision, asking administration to revise the RCs’ current job description to explicitly meet all their demands and “leave no room for confusion.” To do this they suggested that administration include a more comprehensive schedule for future training and remain flexible when students unexpectedly cannot fulfil every aspect of their job description. 

Lastly, it was demanded that from the Spring 2022 semester onwards, RC and CC compensation should be increased to cover full room & board costs and that RCs get paid an additional $15 per hour when they are on call. 

The letter explicitly states that the RCs will take further action if their concerns and demands are not properly addressed. 

“We knowingly signed up for one of the most difficult transitions back to campus and have gone above and beyond for our community,” the letter read. “We hope you understand where we are coming from and trust us when we state that altering our role this way would be an act of hurt  — not only to ourselves, but to the entire Scripps community.”

Scripps didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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