This year saw the implementation of Residential Life Area Directors (RLADs) into most west campus dormitories. The RLADs — an extension of the previous Residential Life Associates (RLA) position — are meant to provide support for students, housemasters, and Graduate Resident Tutors (GRTs). They joined the communities of Maseeh, McCormick, MacGregor, Burton-Connor, New House, Next House, and Simmons at the start of the Fall term.
The existence of the position was leaked to the public through an anonymous letter sent via email by “Tim Beaver” to many campus mailing lists on June 2. The sender included a link to a letter Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80 sent to the housemasters on May 29. Subsequently, many students, including GRTs, chimed in on various email lists, expressing concern that the letter was the first they had heard of the changes to come. The GRT contract, which the GRTs renewed on the day Grimson sent the letter to the housemasters, had no mention of the addition of RLADs — the contract only contained small changes such as dates that the GRTs were to be on campus and clarifications to the pet policy.
“It was not our intent to roll out the position the way we did,” Henry J. Humphreys, Dean of Residential Life and Dining said to The Tech in August. “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.”
The resultant discussion on various dorm lists included concerns about the RLADs disrupting the normal GRT, housemaster, and student communication lines. Other criticisms included the seemingly top-down nature of the decision and its timing, as well as the way in which the information about the position was released.
“When we are told one thing, and there is information leaked that says something else, there are some questions about what the motivations are,” Chris L. Follett VIII G, a GRT on East Campus Third East said to The Tech in June.
Ultimately, student input was taken into account for the final implementations, which Grimson promised. Interviews were conducted for the position in July by groups of students, GRTs, housemasters, and administrators. Students from were able to collectively submit their opinions as a dorm for their preferences of candidates. In the end, seven RLADs were assigned, down from the intended 9 due to opposition from Senior House residents and the Baker housemasters being on sabbatical for the 2012-13 academic year.
In August, the MacGregor RLAD position, previously to be filled by Tamika Smith, became vacant before the term began. Humphreys had no further comment on the situation. However, Smith still had positive things about to say about the position and its purpose.
“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 to The Tech in August. “[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.”
Smith was replaced by Micheal Zakarian in late October.
Despite the controversy and hiccups at the start of the semester regarding the construction of RLAD office spaces and apartments in dorms that did not previously have dedicated space for previous RLAs, the RLADs feel that they have adjusted well to their new role. In response to what her favorite moment as an RLAD was thus far, Laurel Dreher, the Next House RLAD, said, “All those little moments where you feel like you’re welcomed, like you’re becoming a part of the community. Whenever students leave me notes on my office, GRTs knock on my door late at night with questions … it’s those little moments where students are coming to you, and you feel like you’ve made an impact. ”
Christina Davis, director of Residential Life Programs, confirmed that the RLAD program will be expanding in the near future. The Division of Student Life hopes to put out a call for and hire RLADs for Baker, East Campus, and Bexley (the Bexley RLAD will also serve Random Hall), to start in Fall 2013.