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MIT Makes Changes, Renames Residential Coordinator Position

By Matthew Palmer

NEWS EDITOR

The Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs has revised its description for Residential Coordinators, and given them a new name.

The latest description focuses more on the specific services that the newly renamed Residential Life Associates will provide. The main characteristics remain unchanged; four RLAs will still be housed in undergraduate and graduate residences to provide various support services to the MIT community.

“We always had a support role in mind,” said Assistant Dean for RLSLP Katherine G. O’Dair. “The first [job description] didn’t reflect that.” She said that the new name also better reflects their responsibilities.

The new description says that an RLA “offers resources, skills, and energy in the areas of crisis response, event planning, activities support, training, and effective communication between MIT’s student life administration and residence halls.”

“I think the current language is much stronger, clearer, and allows people to really see the proposed functions for the RLAs,” said Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict. Specifically, he said it emphasizes that “this person is not going to be a disciplinarian.”

This draft may be revised until the RLAs take office, but O’Dair said major changes are unlikely. “We asked for and received feedback,” she said. “The housemasters have approved, and [Benedict] is in the process of approving it.”

The new job description has “much better stated the intentions of the program, which is to provide better staff support and promote administration and community communication,” said Dormitory Council President Jeffrey C. Roberts ’02. He said the description was reconstructed with the help of student input, much of which was channeled through Dormcon.

Benedict also said that community input was important to the revision. “The final draft we are now using reflects student, staff, and housemaster input,” he said. RLSLP and Benedict held several forums and meetings with dorms to gauge public opinion.

McCormick to house an RLA

McCormick Hall is planning on housing an RLA, which may replace the need for Burton-Conner House to do so, said McCormick Housemaster Charles Stewart III.

Benedict said the residences of the RLAs should finalized by next week.

McCormick will accept an RLA as long as the offices will be in a separate dormitory, said hall President Kelly V. Chin ’02. The current plan is to convert several rooms in Burton-Conner into RLA offices.

Stewart said the dorm used to have a one bedroom apartment that housed an Associate Housemaster. It has since been renovated into student rooms, which will soon be converted into an RLA residence.

One concern of McCormick residents is the traffic that might be generated by having an RLA in their dorm. Chin said the RLA’s room should be next to an elevator so students meeting with him do not intrude on the all-female community.

Stewart said that the RLAs would not only be working from their apartments, but also from their offices and around campus. “A lot of the business of [the RLAs] will be going out and meeting groups of students,” he said.

Search for RLAs begins

“We are currently in the process of putting together a search committee with undergraduates, graduates, housemasters, and staff,” Roberts said.

O’Dair said one of the first steps in the search process is to do a competency review, which will identify skills RLSLP wants to see in applicants. Later on, the search committee will conduct phone interviews with applicants.

“We want to take our time to get good candidates but not take so long as to lose candidates,” O’Dair said.

Community input analyzed

Much of the controversy over RLAs (previously called Residential Coordinators) centered around the perceived lack of communication between the administration and students.

In response to this and similar incidents, Roberts has released his own plan on how to improve community feedback on the administration’s policies.

“It’s related to a lot of things,” Roberts said. “A lot of the ideas came from dealing with the RLA controversy.”

The essay will be discussed at this Thursday’s Dormcon meeting.

Roberts said that the issue has been brought up before at MIT. He said he found a document from the 1970s relating to the same issue: community feedback and involvement in policymaking.

“The same issues cycle back,” Roberts said, “but that’s not a reason not to try [to improve it].”