University of Massachusetts administrators met with students prior to Monday’s Student Government Association meeting, holding an open forum to discuss controversial proposed changes to Residence Life.
Three administrators were present: Executive Director of Housing and Residential Life Edward C. Hull, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Campus Life Jean Kim and Director of Residence Education Tara A. Loomis.
“Vice Chancellor Kim and I decided that it was important to have an open forum and allow the community to express their opinions and hear direct feedback,” said SGA Senate Speaker Jarred Rose, who organized the forum with Kim.
The administration made it clear that they would entertain all questions or complaints, but they would not necessarily agree with them, nor would they necessarily take action to resolve them.
According to Rose, the meeting was reasonably well-attended and featured significant input from assistant resident directors (ARDs) whose jobs are in jeopardy under the new plans. Thirty-one of the 40 ARDs sent a letter stating their concerns about plans to replace their positions with full-time resident directors.
UMass senior Ben Bull questioned why students made up less than half of the working group tasked with reviewing the changes to the peer mentor and apartment living advisor programs. Kim responded, with Hull’s agreement, that equal student representation is unnecessary because administrators have other means of gauging student opinion, including surveys and studying best practices at other universities.
“I personally think that it’s deeply inappropriate for there to be such a low level of student involvement – not just in the working group on peer mentors, but on any committee,” said Rose. “I think it’s indicative of the entire administration’s view of student involvement. Rose further stated that there are generally one or zero student representatives on the overwhelming majority of committees which make decisions affecting student life.
According to Rose, Kim has stated that changes to the peer mentor program are virtually certain and that she would not accept a recommendation from the working group to leave the program as is.
Last week, SGA President Yevin Roh met with Chancellor Robert Holub to discuss the changes to Residence Life and air his grievances about the manner in which they were enacted.
Roh said to Holub that there had been a failure for lower level leadership to take a course of action regarding changes to Residence Life. Specifically, he objected to the removal of the peer mentor program.
“It was irresponsible,” said Roh. “There was no research and no student input. If there was research done, it was never formalized.”
“There is no evidence to show that it was a good move,” continued Roh.
According to Roh, Holub agreed that the situation was regrettable, and the pair was able to work out a compromise. They agreed to modify the scope of the original working group tasked with examining the proposed peer tutor position.
The working group will no longer focus exclusively on evaluating the peer tutor position. Instead, it will examine a wider range of possibilities with “student success” in mind, explained Roh. This means that the peer mentor positions could potentially be reinstated – however, given Kim’s statements in the open forum, not without significant changes to the program.