Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Are peer mentors really a big loss?

Cade Belisle/Collegian

Many individuals in the student body are in uproar regarding the decision to cut the position of peer mentors in the freshmen residential halls. To be clear, there are numerous rumors floating around about the changes being made, but according to Student Government Association President Yevin Roh, the only alteration that has been decided on is the cut to peer mentors.

When I heard this news my initial reaction was a combination of, “What’s the big deal?” and “Finally.” My experience with my peer mentor freshman year was incredibly lackluster. His name was Reggie and I hardly ever saw him. His door was usually closed, he never hosted any programs or events and I essentially did not have a relationship with him of any kind.

On the other hand, Ashley, my resident assistant, was awesome. Her door was always open, she was friendly, and she hosted events for our floor that people frequently attended. Furthermore, we once ran into each other while intoxicated and it is one of my favorite memories of my freshman year. It was flat out hilarious and we had a strong enough relationship which allowed it to be so.

I understand the importance of resident assistants, maybe because mine did her job exceptionally well, but I feel some confusion about what role peer mentors are intended to fill. If they are supposed to do what their title implies, mentor, I feel that resident assistants can do this as well. Ashley certainly would have been my choice of mentor, and I know she did plenty of mentoring and assisting of the residents over the course of the year.

I might be incorrect, but it has been my understanding that the role of a resident assistant is to help the individuals in their dorm to adjust to being at college. The two jobs seem very similar to me, and considering there are multiple resident assistants on every dormitory floor, it seems the job of the peer mentors can be accomplished by others.

Other students have shared with me how much more they connected with their peer mentors than their resident assistants, and I recognize that peer mentors can and do serve an important role in residence life. They are an additional resource for freshmen who may feel lost and alone on a large, busy campus. However, this seems to also be exactly what resident assistants do. Do we need two different types of positions to guide and mentor the freshman class? Peer mentors are definitely not wholly unnecessary, but as I assume the cuts are being made due to budget, and seeing as this university has been struggling financially for years, cuts must be made.

During my three and a half years on this campus I have seen students angered by fee increases and also angered by the cuts the administration makes, but in a budget crises both of these things must happen. I am not saying the university has made the best decisions in terms of the cuts they make, but somewhere along the line they need to be made. Would we as a student body be willing to see fee increases in order to save the Peer Mentor position?

There were rumors of other changes, most of which I do not agree with. The resident assistant job should not be changed to an unpaid internship and housing should not have a correlation to GPA. Although at the same time I do not view these changes as something to be up in arms about, perhaps only because they will not affect me. If I were to be living on campus or serving as a resident assistant next year, I might feel differently.

Regardless, students should have had a larger role in the discussion and decision process of all of this. The peer mentor position should not have been cut without consulting the student body to a greater degree since it does impact more than just those individuals who fill the role. I just have not been convinced of the importance of the peer mentor position and this is likely because the  limited experience I had with them was negative. As a result, I was, and remain, largely unconcerned with the decision to cut the peer mentor position

I more than welcome individuals to send me emails explaining why this position is so critical and why resident assistants are not suited to do this same job already. I would very much like to understand what caused people to protest – so rational, articulate, well thought out emails with answers to these inquiries are appreciated.

Kellie Quinn is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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  • S

    Stephanie HigginsOct 22, 2019 at 11:22 am

    My PM helped me survive my freshman year. I would not have stayed at UMass were it not for the resources my PM connected me with and the organizing and class advice they imparted. So yes, it would be an incredible loss for new students.

  • A

    AmberDec 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Get it Heather!

  • H

    HeatherDec 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I have seen some horrific articles written in the past but this one surpasses them all. I finished my bachelors degree last year at UMass and am now in my 1st year of graduate school here. I work as a PM for 2 years and a Cluster Office Manager for 1 year. Residence life is extremely important in the residential halls. Positions should not be cut back but expanded. First-year hall staff need more support as it is.
    There were many errors in this article. I know for a fact cutting the PM position had nothing to do with money. The PMs are going to be replaced by more RAs on the floor so the PMs room will just become RA rooms. And just so you know PMs pay for their rooms while RAs do not. So really the school is loosing money by putting RAs in place of PMs. Plus they are hiring outside tutors to aid students.
    I agree, yes there are PMs that need improvements but there are many RAs that lack in their skills as well. Having worked in the first years hall for two years I know how challenging it can be to live and keep order in that setting. My first year as a PM I had a RA who was never around and I had to take on the responsibility of RA and PM which was unfair. My second year I had a wonderful RA. No matter what area you are in you will find people who are not dedicated to their job, sadly the RAs have such a tight union that it is impossible for RAs to be let go; even if they are not doing a good job. Yet, I have known many PMs who were fired due to the fact they were not following procedures. It is always a constant struggle for the RAs to do anything outside their union.
    I loved my job as a PM which is why I worked hard at improving at it. I was around and seen on my floor and I kept my door open often. I created sign-up sheets for students to come during the day if they could not make my office hours. Especially when it came time to sign up for classes I was constantly booked. My first-year residents were always full of questions and I was happy to help them and answer them.
    I am not sure who Kellie Quinn is, but if she had spent anytime working in residential life she would see and understand the challenges of the system. I know the collegian is known for its lack of facts but I am surprised this was even allowed to go to print.
    I hope Kellie Quinn never wants to be a ‘real’ reporter because her article is filled with gossip and miss directed anger. Only the ignorant will be able to believe her web of lies.

  • A

    AmberDec 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I do not think that the RA and PM that you mentioned would be happy to know that you stated their names. I happen to know who both of them are, even though they’ve both graduated. You painted your RA in a bad light by stating that she ran into you intoxicated, and you blatantly stated that you had an ineffective PM.

  • B

    BrianDec 12, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    I wonder too whether peer mentors are worth it. The money saved from not paying their stipends (~$200,000 total) and opening up the double-rooms they occupy by themselves to other paying students, are dividends I don’t think the university can afford right now (and decisions that have been a long time coming).

    Furthermore I think a tough love approach is a step in the right direction. If you can’t handle yourself at 18 or seek out other outlets of support (which there are), you aren’t ready for college. This isn’t daycare, as hard as it is to believe sometimes. It’s the real world, it should run like it.

  • J

    JanamDec 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    While it is easy to turn this issue into an R.A vs. PM debate, it is important for everyone to keep in mind that the issue at hand is not about which position is better, or who does a finer job “assisting” or “mentoring.” Each student’s First Year Experience is unique from the next, and while some students may speak highly of their Peer Mentors, others may portray indifference in the matter. Similarly, while some students, such as you, Kellie, seem to have had a wonderful relationship with their R.A., others may claim that they did not have the same connection.
    On a slightly different note, you mention that cuts are necessary, seeing as “this university has been struggling financially for years.” I agree with you, completely, but I have to correct you in your assumption that saving the Peer Mentor position will lead to fee hikes and an unneeded use of limited funds. As a matter of fact, the proposed cuts by Eddie Hull, the Director of Residence Life, make it so that the 54 Peer Mentor jobs being cut (in addition to the 19 Apartment Living Advisors, who will be removed in favor of 4 graduate specialists, and 17 Assistant Resident Directors) will be replaced with “Peer Tutors,” although the logistics of these positions have not yet been decided. In addition to that, a number of “First Year Experience Specialists,” “Graduate Learning Specialists,” and 23 more R.A. positions are being added. Hence, whether cutting Peer Mentors is a fiscally beneficial move, or one that simply opens up spots for professional, non-student staff, is really a question that will not be answered until everything is absolutely finalized. Furthermore, the centralization of clusters will eliminate a lot of the cluster office staff that currently exists.
    What all of this is getting at is this: The root of the uproar that is currently taking place is the lack of student outreach in decision-making. Simply put—judging by all of the opinions students have voiced over the past week or so, supportive, unsupportive, indifferent, or otherwise, it is safe to say that student input in this matter would have yielded a far better reaction to the changes. It may have even yielded to a more fiscally, logistically, and ethically well-planned proposal for Residence Life changes. Students are angry because the drastic decisions that directly impact their quality of life on campus were made with NO input from them.

  • C

    Cassie JeonDec 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    While it’s great that your one isolated experience with your RA was positive, I can use the same argument to say the same of my RA as well. My RA was a nursing major and doing her clinicals as well as being in the marching band. I rarely ever saw my RA and she did not hold events. It was also hard to actually get in touch with her. My peer mentor helped me a lot during my first year to navigate through all the resources on campus. Peer mentors also have an office where they are there to help any student who walks in. You at least knew someone would be there to help you instead of wondering when your RA would get back. Also, I’ve spoken with someone in ResLife and been told that this change isn’t because of budget cuts as you assumed. Transitioning from high school to college is undoubtedly a difficult process and for a first generation college student like myself, I felt my peer mentor helped me make that transition more smoothly.

  • F

    Fred BranesDec 8, 2011 at 9:29 am

    “Furthermore, we once ran into each other while intoxicated and it is one of my favorite memories of my freshman year.”
    With that one gem of a statement, your article lost all credibility.

    Your parents must be very proud.