Where there once was seven, there are now only six. Tamika Smith, one of the seven new Residential Life Area Directors (RLADs), is no longer employed by MIT, citing personal reasons. Dean of Residential Life and Dining Henry J. Humphreys says that he hopes to find a new person for the position of MacGregor RLAD as quickly as possible.
“We reposted the position nationally, and about 40 people have applied so far,” said Humphreys. “We’ll start the screening process after Labor Day weekend; the interview process will be similar to what it was this summer in terms of timing.”
The RLAD position has been a source of tension between students and the administration this summer. In early June, a letter from Chancellor W. Eric L. Grimson PhD ’80 to the housemasters about the upcoming RLAD position was leaked to the MIT community, sparking an overwhelmingly negative reaction from students and GRTs. The Tech covered the leak and the initial reactions. After the letter was leaked, the administration continued to move forward with the implementation of the RLAD system.
“It was not our intent to roll out the position the way we did,” said Humphreys. “Once we decided to go forward, we needed to move quickly, as the window for hiring officials for the position in the summer is small.”
Smith said that she and the other RLADs were well aware of the controversy that existed before they came in, and had discussed it in conversations with the Deans of Student Life.
“Before I came to the interview [for the position], I took the time to read all the Tech articles and to learn as much as I could about the politics and drama about the position — I can definitely understand both sides,” Smith said.
Contrary to what some students believe, Smith did not see the job as having a disciplinary component at all, but instead saw the RLAD position as purely a support role. “I would be there to help and support the dorm’s culture, goals, and any programming the dorm wants to do.”
“It’s great to have faculty members that run the halls, but you may have a class with that person or your GRTs may be your TA for that class,” Smith said. “[with the RLADs] you would have one other person to speak to, one other person who knows what resources are available, and has been trained to support you and get you the resources that you need.”
Furthermore, Grimson confirmed that the RLAD position, and its hurried implementation, is not a reaction to the three student deaths that happened this past year.
“This is not a direct response to the particular student deaths,” Grimson said. “I don’t want people to think the AD position is the magic ingredient to prevent suicides, but it will help — I think it will help a lot. [The RLAD position] clearly evolved out of those discussions about what the stress points in the system are.”
For the dorms that do not yet have RLADs — Baker House, Bexley Hall, East Campus, Random Hall, and Senior House — their respective housemasters will converse with their communities this fall. According to Humphreys, the plan is to look into hiring people in spring 2013 to start as RLADs in fall 2013, if possible.
Despite the controversy, Smith believes that the RLADs will be a positive addition to the dorms. “For every house that gets one or has one now, I think it will be a positive asset, in that all [the RLADs] are really excited to work with students and help them have a great student experience,” Smith said.
The RLADs will be living in the dorms in apartment spaces previously dedicated to Residental Life Associates (RLA), a position that was phased out as part of the RLAD implementation. In dorms where these spaces did not exist, notably in MacGregor and New House, renovations are being made to consolidate rooms to make these apartment spaces. The construction of these apartments does not displace any students. Humphreys said that work on the New House space has already started, while the location for the MacGregor RLAD apartment has yet to be finalized.
When The Tech contacted the seven RLADs, none of the continuing RLADs agreed to an interview, deferring inquiries to Humphreys instead.
—Jessica J. Pourian contributed reporting to this article