Residence dons required to perform room checks during exam period

Dons not consulted on decision, face extra stress during exams

Leggett Hall. 

On Mar. 14, Residence Life informed students that Dons would be performing room checks throughout the exam period.

The Dons were informed a day later.

“It’s a little bit concerning,” Francine*, a current Don, told The Journal in an interview. “It showsyou they rolled out this process without even consulting us. Not only did they go ahead and do it, they actually announced it, and then realized they hadn’t even told us.”

Throughout the exam period, residence Dons will be required to perform unscheduled room checks for their students, which could take anywhere from two to twenty minutes. Students will be given access to the Don on-call phone number to call dons individually and set up times for the checks.

“You’re constantly getting disrupted to have to go check students out of their rooms,” Francine said.

Genevieve*, a Don currently working in residence, told The Journal in an interview this additional job requirement creates added stress for Dons during the exam period.

She said because the room checks are unscheduled and can happen intermittently throughout the day, it will be difficult for Dons to settle into a focused study session.

“You can’t actually get any studying done in 15 minutes,” she said. “It’s a complete waste of time.”

Dons were not required to perform room checks beforethis term.

“The initial process details were developed by Residence Life staff and communicated to Dons throughout our typical channels—email, team meetings,” Kate Murray, executive director of Residence Life, wrote in a statement to The Journal. 

Murray didn’t specify when Residence Life communicated the “initial process details” to Dons.

“Subsequently, some dons raised some concerns,” she added.

Following the Mar. 15 announcement that dons would be required to perform these room checks, several Dons had meetings with their supervisors to discuss how they were feeling, according to Genevieve.

“It was a super emotional meeting,” she said. “Three people cried at our team meeting. Somebody vomited from the stress. Dons don’t know what to do, and they’re really freaking out.”

Following these meetings, Residence Life decreased the expected overall time commitment from four hours to three and reduced the maximum amount of room checks to 10 per day.

“We responded with two separate emails indicating that we were listening to their feedback and exploring options,” Murray said. “Adjustments were then made to the process to reduce the time expectations on dons, and increase flexibility to allow dons to most easily fit these expectations into their individual schedules.” 

According to Francine and Genevieve, Residence Life had discussions with Becky Shillington, manager of Residence Life (operations), about the Dons’ issues with the new arrangement.

According to Genevieve, Shillington doesn’t interact with dons on a day-to-day basis, limiting her understanding of what their lives look like and the pressure of exam season. 

“Having her as our only representative in those talks is frustrating,” Genevieve said.

Murray said even with the room checkout process, “there continues to be a significant reduction in Don job responsibilities during the April exam period.” 

She added the process allows dons to have “continued flexibility” in completing these responsibilities around their individual academic requirements.

Both Francine and Genevieve told The Journal that Residence Life is employing dons to perform room checks instead of safety facility staff due to financial issues.

If Residence Life hired safety facility staff to perform the room checks, it would have to pay them. Dons are not paid on an hourly basis, and instead have a clause in their contracts that requires them to perform any additional duties as assigned by Residence Life, according to Genevieve.

“I know money’s tight with the University right now with budget cuts,” she said. “[They’re] going to turn to the people who have no set hours by contract, who are not paid hourly, who are not paid even in like actual money. We’re very easy staff to exploit.”

Residence Life didn’t respond to the allegation that it’s employing students to perform room checks instead of safety facility staff to save money. 

“These checks are a new initiative, and have not been conducted in prior years,” Murray said. “They do not replace the full room assessments that facilities staff will continue to conduct after all students have moved out.” 

According to Francine, performing room checks is outside the role of a Don.

“First and foremost, our role is to be supportive,” she said. “Had it been an emergency issue where students are lacking support, or something that was actually within our role, I’m sure some of the Dons would’ve been more than happy to step up and put in that extra work, but it seemed that this has been an extra job that never existed and now they’re throwing it [on us] to make it our responsibility to save money.” 

*The names in this story have been changed to maintain anonymity.

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