Reception of ASUAF resolution mixed

Kaz Alvarez / Sun Star Reporter 

Feb. 4, 2014

Forty-five testimonies have been submitted to the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks regarding their experiences with Residence Life as of Feb. 4.

ASUAF is still collecting student testimonies in a private document managed by ASUAF to support the student government resolution to encourage the formation of an evaluation committee.

“It will probably be a couple of years before a fix is made,” ASUAF senator Ashley Strauch said. “All a resolution does is call for an evaluation to happen. It doesn’t necessarily call for anything to be done with the results. It can be fairly assumed that, if major problems, are found, changes will be made.”

The mission of Res Life, according to their website, is to “support the academic mission of the University of Alaska by providing living and learning communities that enhance student success. We provide safe, clean, and well maintained facilities that meet the diverse needs of our residents.”

Students with questions regarding Res Life are encouraged to consult their Residence Assistants, Resident Directors or Res Life staff in person, over the phone or through email. The 2012-2013 Resident Student Handbook suggests avenues of communication for incidents of sexual abuse, alcohol issues, noise complaints and difficulties with conflict resolution between students. The handbook does not present instructions for students to resolve conflicts with Res Life or their employees.

“If a student doesn’t feel like they are getting satisfaction, maybe they should seek advocacy from another Res Life staff or authority figure,” said Tim Murphrey, interim MacLean House Program Manager.  “A resolution might be extreme and you don’t want to use that every time. It’s like going squirrel hunting but going with a bear gun. It’ll get the job done but, boy, it’s messy,” Murphrey said.

Not all experiences with Res Life have been negative. There are still many students who have benefited from Res Life.

“Everyone’s nice, especially the Resident Assistants and Resident Director,” said Kenneth Shin, a junior Bio Chemistry student who lives in Bartlett. “I would have no problem reporting issues to Res Life. They could do more activities on the weekends.”

“Everyone has been very helpful,” said Sarah Williams, a freshman Engineering student.

“The programs that they do, I think, are really good,” Murphrey said, “Really good experiences with Brad Bishop. He’s been very helpful in transitioning MacLean from Res Life to Rural Student Services.”

The polices for the dorm are the same under RSS as they were under Res Life. “An RSS staff member is working on indigenizing the handbook and adding cultural components,” Murphrey said. “There was a lot of cut-and-paste.”

However, there are UAF students who have submitted testimonies to refute these efforts of Res Life. “A ratio of positive to negative testimonies is tough to do since many of the testimonies contain a few positive elements among the negative,” said Strauch. “I don’t think a single testimony is entirely positive or negative so far.”

Adam Trainer, a senior history student and his wife Sara Janda, a graduate Biology student, composed a joint testimony that details some of the experiences they’ve had with Res Life that they believe contradict Res Life’s mission. Trainer began their testimony with his work experience and level of education to demonstrate that he has the experience to see that some level of dissatisfaction is to be expected when dealing with an organization as large as Res Life.

Trainer and fiancée struggled to secure appropriate housing where they could live together, with their two pets, in a place that was supportive of academic work. “Despite the initial confusion, we were absolutely thrilled until we found out that Hess Village, as an exception to the standard Residence Life Pet policy, allowed only one cat or one dog. No consideration was given to adult cats, weight or any other mitigating circumstance.”

They filed a petition for an exception to be made prior to leaving Washington. “We were told that the Residence Life Director had refused to grant the exception on the basis that a precedent would be set for other exceptions to be granted.” said Trainer.

The couple’s testimony also referenced the quotes from Laura McCollough, Residence Life Director, in a previous Sun Star article about the resolution. McCollough stated early November that she was perplexed by the resolution and “couldn’t really understand what the problem was.”

The quotes from McCollough provoked Trainer and Janda’s testimony.

“The Residence Life Director, the person responsible for the department full-stop, could not understand that students might be at all upset with the department to which she is charged,” Trainer said in his testimony. “This alone should set off red flags. To be in charge of an organization which serves a diverse and numerous population of students, to have no understanding that such problems exist is unbelievable.”

Trainer concluded the testimony  with a request. “Please investigate Residence Life. Please raise-up those that work for the students while protecting the investments of the university. Please also ensure that polices that do not ‘support the academic mission of UAF’ or ‘enhance student success’ are removed.’’

 Email Kaz Alvarez at kalvarez2@alaska.edu to submit a comment with your reaction to the resolution. Submit testimonies to ASUAF through an anonymous form http://bit.ly/1n48FNj.

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