Massachusetts Daily Collegian

ResLife still not “involving us”

By Avery Fuerst

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Shaina Mishkin/Collegian

At 8 a.m. on Friday, February 24, over 60 UMass Amherst students held a silent protest at Whitmore, the head administrative building on campus, to publicly stand united against the firing of peer mentors and apartment living assistants. This is the second time that the Involve Us campaign, spearheaded by UMass Amherst’s Student Labor Action Project chapter, rallied students together to protest the administration’s decision to fire these 92 student jobs without any student involvement.

The first protest was held last semester within 23 hours of the peer mentor and apartment living assistants’ firing, and peaked at over 120 protesting students. They were sent to the UMass Board of Trustees and the administrators held responsible for these student job cuts, including Vice Chancellor Jean Kim, Director of Residential Life Eddie Hull and Director of Residential Education Tara Loomis. In response, the Working Group for Student Success was created to re-evaluate the cutting of PMs amongst other student success issues. The working group includes Hull and Loomis, as well as four other administrators and two students.

This working group is part of what the body that the Involve Us campaign, its coalition members and concerned students protested this past Friday. As was communicated by the administration, Friday was supposed to be the last possible chance to resurrect the highly supported Peer Mentor positions, so we felt the need to remind our administration that they could not simply cut student jobs without student involvement. We began our protest with a speech by our student government president, Yevin Roh, and the SLAP core team leader, Allison McGrail, and proceeded into Whitmore chanting until we reached the meeting room.

Once in the offices of the chancellor, a few student speeches were made by leading student organizers such as myself and others involved in Residential Life, including peer mentors Kyle Mendes and Allison McGrail. We then proceeded with a silent protest, holding signs that conveyed our demands. The Administrators of the working group asked for us to leave because they did not “feel comfortable making decisions in front of such a large body of students.” We took a vote: the majority of the students decided that we should vacate the space and leave behind a delegation of four students to remain and participate in the meeting. This way there would be six students in the meeting total, and therefore an equal representation of students and administrators. The four chosen students were Mendes, McGrail, Tiff Tai, a representative of the student government, and myself as a resident assistant and organizer. The four of us were led to believe that we would have full participatory status at this meeting since the vast majority of our delegation had been asked to leave.
We were wrong. The director of the working group, Carol Barr, interrupted every student in the delegation by saying “working group only” if we tried to speak. The other members of the student delegation and I decided to speak up anyway. Speaking for myself, I was not going to be silenced by a working group whose official mission was to serve students. The working group was trying to decide how to substantiate their attempts to alter Residential Life without asking students. When they began talking about using statistics to back their proposed changes, I spoke up again. At this point I mentioned that 1500 students had signed a petition demanding the reestablishment of the peer mentor position. The director of the working group reminded me again that this was a “working group meeting only” and therefore my comment was out of line. Other suggestions generated by students including Roh’s proposal and clarifications on the Peer Mentor role by Mendes also fell on deaf ears. This meeting made it clear to all students involved that the administrators were not going to voluntarily listen to us students, and that we were going to have to pressure them to include us.
We, the Involve Us campaign, will continue fighting for the restoration of the PM and ALA jobs. We also demand that students are given equal representation on all committees that make recommendations affecting student life to our administrators, and that students are given equal status to all other members on these committees.

Avery Fuerst is a Collegian contributor. She can be reached at [email protected]



11 Responses to “ResLife still not “involving us””

  1. Former ResLife Staff on March 1st, 2012 7:56 am

    While I feel bad for anyone affected by these cuts, I think they are long overdue. Being a graduate student who gets school paid for plus $25,000/yr for doing a cushy job is kind of a ripoff to students. In addition, the need for peer mentors is pretty slim, as are the benefits of being one, so I have a hard time believing 1,500 students truly believe cutting this position is going to have a dramatic effect on campus living. It’s more likely that every peer mentor on the chopping block just had every one of their friends sign the petition. The ResLife budget is long overdue for cuts anyhow. I remember in January of 2010, the interim head of reslife organized this large training lecture that turned out to be a brainwashing session against capitalism. I walked out and told her it was a waste of time and money. She got pissed and asked how we should spend our money. I told her give it back.


  2. Former ResLife Staff on March 1st, 2012 7:58 am

    Also, there is no reason RAs should have a union, or get paid on top of getting free housing and other benefits. The job is way too easy.


  3. Resident on March 1st, 2012 10:09 am

    @Former ResLife Staff: Yeah! We should treat our staff like slaves, not students! That’ll show ’em how real workers live.


  4. Silent Bystander on March 1st, 2012 11:01 am

    You might want to take a look at what is going on in Lincoln Apartments — Herr Hull has unilaterally declared all of the Commonwealth’s Landlord-Tenant law null and void and that apartments are now dormitories.

    So even though grad students living there have a LEASE for their rented APARTMENT, he is going to assign random undergrads to live there for free. So as it was explained to me, the grad student pays the full rent of the apartment and the undergrad pays the dorm rental fees and hence Hull collects even more money.

    After all, everyone must have a roommate, we can’t have individualism or students who just want to be left alone.

    And the other thing about the Peer Mentors — they are what the RAs were in the past…


  5. shmanal on March 1st, 2012 12:15 pm

    ResLife Staff,

    If you hold true to your beliefs then why are you in an unnecessarily “cushy” job? If the benefits of being a peer mentor are slim then the cost as a whole shouldn’t be too bad, right?

    1,500 students signed a petition. Their affiliation to those who prompted them to sign it is not relevant. They signed it plain and simple. I don’t sign things my friends encourage me to sign based solely on our relationship. These folks are “peer mentors” not “peer pressure”.

    Too bad you walked out on a residence life training. They were paying for it either way and the fact that you did not participate in what your supervisor wanted you to is a clear waste of money.

    I was an RA on campus for 3 years in various buildings. An RA’s job is not easy despite what you may think I’ll give you that some will slack or not care but that does not mean that the job itself is easy for those who do or try to fulfill the responsibilities.

    The GEO union is unnecessary and a bloated waste of time and money. The same base logic would apply to your “cushy” job.


  6. Smchuk on March 1st, 2012 1:20 pm

    Still I bet many of those 1500 students signed the papers based on relationships. Even if you didn’t it doesn’t meant that they did the same.

    The jobs are cushy, GEO is bloated and wasteful. Cut them to stop the fee increases, I’d rather have a new hospital than a student sitting in their room or office who can’t even get an email about a package out.


  7. Former ResLife Staff on March 1st, 2012 2:07 pm

    Free housing is a huge payment in itself. And it was easy. Really easy. And preaching socialism isn’t training.


  8. Ryan Quinn on March 1st, 2012 6:59 pm

    The RA, Peer Mentor, and ARD positions are not “cushy”. They require long hours and lots of work.

    Also, “Former ResLife Staff”- the very fact that you call it a “job” when you say, “the job is way too easy,” indicates that it should be paid. Federal and state laws require that workers be paid for doing a job. It took a significant struggle for RA’s to gain that employee status so they could collectively bargain with the University and be paid as employees.


  9. Real World on March 1st, 2012 10:49 pm

    They are cushy jobs, most kids work worse jobs with just as long, more difficult hours for less money. Ask the Bus Drivers, Mullins Center employees, etc. They don’t get paid in the thousands of dollars range with their perks for far tougher jobs than sitting in an office for majority of the time.


  10. Reslife Staff on March 2nd, 2012 1:31 am

    I am a reslife staff, but here I am speaking for myself based on personal experience. When I was a freshman, I found it hard to decide on an optimal class schedule. And my Peer Mentor provided me with good advice and tools right away. In contrast, my RA back then focused on leadership development and education policy advocate. Looking back, both Peer Mentor and my RA at that time had different focus and made a huge impact on my college life. I was very grateful of having both of them. In particular, they helped me in different ways to gain more self-awareness and be self-sufficient throughout my college career. I wholeheartedly think it would be great to have both Peer Mentors and RAs in freshman dorms. The humanistic reasons are(1)most Reslife Staff is first a student, dealing with lots of stress, and need to work in good teams; (2)Peer Mentors and RAs’ job have different focus, and their talents and different perspectives are the intangible but the greatest assets of Residence Education, which has potential to impact others’ lives profoundly.


  11. Real World on March 29th, 2012 9:47 pm

    Well that’s interesting, but educational advocacy or leadership development isn’t the job of an RA and Peer Mentor are worse-trained and unskilled versions of advisers, where the money would be better spent. PM’s would have less stress if they worked as students and not as faculty doing a job they have no business doing.


If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.