ASUAF resolution; Res Life changing

Kaz Alvarez/ Sun Star Reporter

Feb. 25, 2014

With the spring semester underway, Department of Residence Life staff have a chance to address concerns raised by student government regarding their policies and practices.

The Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks began work on “SR 181-001: Reformation of Res Life Policies and Practices” in September 2013. The resolution passed in December 2013 and asks Chancellor Brian Rogers to form an evaluation committee to review the policies and practices of the department.

“I’ve been hearing about frustrations but not had anyone talk to me specifically,” said Laura McCollough, Director of Res Life. “Most of the time, I have been finding out about this through the Sun Star. I did pursue speaking with ASUAF after I found out there was a resolution. Of course, I was hoping someone would come speak to me directly.” McCollough met with ASUAF representatives twice to discuss the resolution.

“For the first month, I was waiting on a show of student support before contacting her,” Strauch said. “It was about a larger student issue and it seemed a good idea to get student input first.”

The first meeting between ASUAF and Res Life occurred on November 25. ASUAF President Ayla O’Scannell and Senator Ashley Strauch met with Laura McCollough and Associate Director Jamie Abreau. All ASUAF committee chairs were invited, including Matthew Carrick, chair of the Internal Affairs Committee; Brix Hahn, chair of the Public Relations Committee; and Eli Barry-Garland, chair of the Executive Committee. Strauch felt that the meeting was very positive, especially during the brainstorming session.

“We had two meetings,” McCollough said. “We asked them if they were interested in meeting.  The first one was just to find out what was going on and went really well.”

“I was happy that they were open to meeting,” Strauch said. “However, I feel that the tone was very confrontational on their part. It didn’t allow us to explain why we were doing the resolution, and I didn’t feel that they left understanding.”

Brad Bishop, first-year experience coordinator, has concerns that the authors of the resolution and people who submitted testimonies are basing their opinions on experiences with an old Res Life department. Bishop was also present at the ASUAF meeting when the resolution was passed unanimously by student senators.

“I don’t know how much the common student knows, but in the last few years, we literally changed from top to bottom,” Bishop said. “We have a new director, associate director and first-year experience coordinator. In the last three years, we have lost all of our office workers and replaced them with new workers because we had a regime change. We had a director who had been here for ten years change to a new director; these are things that happen.”

McCollough said that the resolution was vague, but spoke on a few of the key issues that she picked out of the resolution. She focused on the customer service aspect, inconsistencies in how policies are applied and how personnel are treated within the department.

“The problem is, when you say generalities, it doesn’t give me things that I can fix,” Bishop said. “I was a little disheartened when I read the last article because the person really pushing for it thought it would take a couple years. I’m making changes right now. If you want there to be a change, you have got to be involved and it has to happen now.” Bishop pointed out that he would be experiencing a completely different clientele in two years with different needs.

“Administration didn’t know that this was a serious problem for students until we brought it up,” Strauch said in regards to a comment in November in which she said change would take a few years. “I was only saying it would take a long time to be realistic. I did not want to imply to the Chancellor that this was the only issue on his plate,” Strauch said. 

Bishop and McCollough are incorporating changes in Res Life already. Bishop provides monthly workshops to residents and job fairs. McCollough, after meeting with Ashley Strauch and Ayla O’Scannell, authors of the resolution, is attempting to add more information to the handbook and website as well as host a town hall meeting.

McCollough encourages students to approach her with their concerns so that she can deal with them more directly. A town hall will be hosted by Res Life in the Hess Recreation Center to discuss housing and dining issues.

“I think that them hosting a town hall is a very good step,” Strauch said.

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