Dons dissent, discuss unionization

Residence dons consider unionizing due to increased workload, programming and responsibilities

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Residence dons are rallying against changes made to their workloads, with talks of unionizing in the future. Some have even threatened to walk off the job.

The Journal first learned of the possibility of dons unionizing — a move being spearheaded by senior residence dons — in September.

A don, who requested to remain anonymous, said increased responsibilities this semester are making dons feel like they’re being taken advantage of.

Fear of losing their jobs has led any dissent to remain under wraps, the don said.

“There’s been this general trend in ResLife, as of recently, to just kind of not take into consideration dons’ perspectives or just our general well-being,” she said.

Dons, whose job entails supervising and managing students in residence, are also full-time students.

While not paid a salary, dons receive free room and board as well as a meal plan.

“They put us in a very vulnerable state because they’re not just our bosses ­— we rely on them for our housing,” the don said. “We can’t complain because then we will get fired, and for many of us financially it’s just not an option to live anywhere other than Res.”

In August, dons were told by members of Residence Life — the body that oversees residence services at Queen’s — that they would have to complete eight programs, rather than four.

Programs range from skill-set workshops to educational campaigns across residences, taking upwards of 100 hours per program to compile, they said.

Two weeks ago, dons said they were told they would have to work on-call 24/7 in December, a job that’s traditionally the responsibility of Residence Life Coordinators, full-time non-student staff who live in residence, hired by ResLife.

“I don’t know anyone who is happy with all of this,” she said, adding the extra programming and on-call requirement in December has amounted to nearly double the workload.

“A lot of us are fairly upset because they told us essentially a week or two weeks before exams, and they had known for a while that they had wanted to do this.”

The changes, which were allegedly introduced by Chauncey Kennedy, Residence Life manager, weren’t stipulated in the work contracts signed by dons following their hiring last March.

The new requirements were relayed verbally by Residence Life Coordinators.

“In the beginning of the year, after we had signed our contracts and after we attended training, agreed to take to the job, they then informed us that they were quadrupling our job requirements for the year,” said another don, who also requested to remain anonymous.

It’s her second year working as a don, having previously worked in Residence Life.

She said they were told the changes to their job description were made to align the residence system with other university systems.

“I came into it this year expecting a certain kind of job and none of these changes were communicated to anyone during hiring, which is when I think … it should be communicated,” she said.

“A lot of the outrage is more from returning dons than new dons just because [new dons] just think this is how it is,” she said.

Chauncey Kennedy did not respond to interview requests from the Journal.

The don declined to provide further detail regarding their plans to unionize. Providing further detail could jeopardize the plans, she said.

“We have no lobbying platform or any sort of representation or anything … we just need something as a voice for the dons.”

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