New Roles in Store for Salem State’s Residence Halls

By Sarina Alley
 Salem, Mass., March 27, 2017 — “Residence Life” at Salem State University will soon be going through some changes. In September, the Academic Mentor position will be changing into “Academic Resident Assistant.” This change has inspired both positive and negative feedback from student staff and professional staff.

Academic Mentors (AMs) were part of the student staff organization on campus, who lived in first- and second-year housing, assisting the residents with homework, helping them study material, and walking them through which on campus resources to use for help, to name a few. They held office hours for an accumulated three hours a week and hosted programs that mainly focused on academic success and general wellness.

Jacob McNally, Resident Assistant, junior, assists a resident in getting back into her room in Salem State University’s Bates Complex in Salem, Mass., on March 24, 2017. McNally has been chosen to be Senior Resident Assistant for next year and is making plans to support his entire staff. Photo: Sarina Alley

The AM will be replaced with the Academic Resident Assistant (ARA) who, per the Salem State Academic Resident Assistant Position Description, will “Maintain 4 Coaching Resource Hours per week, with 1 written planned and evaluated academic themed program per month…” and “host coaching workshops.”

The person in charge of training the students who are hired into this position is Resident Director and Area Coordinator Cindy Miller. She has plans for what direction the ARA job is going to take.

“[Programs are] supposed to be more like a workshop than a program,” said Miller. “More based around registration, “Navigator,” Center for Academic Excellent referrals, Writing Center referrals, tutoring.”

The ARAs will also have to balance the “conflict, policy and communication enforcement of an RA,” which would be a new addition for anyone who was an AM applying for the ARA job. However, with these shared responsibilities, Miller believes that the dynamic between RAs and current AMs will shift.

“Duty phone dynamics can get odd. Some RAs take the duty phone to mean that their word holds more weight; with the ARA role that will disappear quite a bit,” said Miller. “They’ll be required to close and hold duties — but with more of an academic focus.”

Lyndsey Robinson, Academic Mentor, senior, tutoring a resident in North Dining at Salem State University in Salem, Mass,, on March 21, 2017. Robinson does not support the ARA position and cites inaccurate data-gathering as cause. Photo: Sarina Alley

Although the plan has been set and is in motion, there are some within the “Res Life” community that do not support the ARA position. When asked about the change in position, Lyndsey Robinson, an AM, English Major and senior, had a lot to say.

“The ARA position is a load of bull,” said Robinson. “We were told that the AM position is ‘too expensive’ to keep, and that after interviews with AMs, it was decided that the best choice was to combine the role of AM with RA.”

Robinson is an AM in Bowditch Hall, a first-year residential building on North campus. She, along with other AMs, have been outspoken in the fact that they are against the new position as well as the current treatment of AMs. In her opinion, the relationship between student staff is “cliquey.”

“RAs tend to only want to hang out with RAs, Desk Receptionists have told me that they don’t understand why AMs live in the building and get free room/board,” said Robinson. “And the AMs tend to keep to themselves.”

Robinson also believes that the professional staff that took the data from Viking Hall last year were wrong to do so, stating that the AMs hired for Viking had not been in the job long enough to be evaluated on performance.

“No AM that has had the position for longer than six weeks was interviewed. And the data used to show that AMs weren’t working out was taken from a new building with a new layout and had nothing to do with if AMs were useful,” Robinson said.

This change in Res Life is going to create new potential job openings in buildings across campus, including upper classmen residence halls like Atlantic and Bates, where last year AMs argued in favor of having the position added onto the staff then in place at the two halls.

Jacob McNally, who was hired as the Senior Resident Assistant (SRA) at Bates Complex next year, knows that there will be challenges that come along with a new position.

“I’m not quite sure what they’re going to need, but I’ll do my best do help everyone equally,” said McNally.

Training for this position will begin this summer when student staff members go back to school in August to prepare for the arrival of residents.

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