March 27, 2009
Letters to the Editor
Student explores department's downfallA misfortune has befallen us and I am unsure if the well-being of our institution can be maintained.
We are being failed, ladies and gentlemen: failed by the very office charged to protect and uphold our values as members of society at Susquehanna University.
The Office of Residence Life is responsible for the degradation.
With great power may come great responsibility, but with great responsibility comes a great opportunity to fail.
The Office of Residence Life has failed us in numerous ways at the heart of its responsibilities.
I am an upperclassman, and for the past several years, I have served in the school's Resident Assistant program.
From my positions as an RA, I have been witness to and knowledgeable about the following failures.
Bias is the first issue that presents itself: bias of character, perception and action.
How can an office whose purpose is to promote an unbiased environment be responsible for creating the problem?
The answer lies in the nature of the management of the department.
The professional staff of the department, in seeking to find and birth a utopia on campus, has neglected to understand their charge on a humanistic level.
All humans have basic undeniable rights, such as the rights to speech, religion and thought.
However, there is another basic right that has been ignored in creating this environment of bias.
That is the right to be viewed and respected by society as a fully feeling, functioning being with the capacity for thought and action.
Instead of treating those whom they employ and look after as individuals, the office has devolved to the point of regarding us solely on its visual observations.
They have, in effect, created a superficial lens that, once focused to a certain spectrum, does not desire to, and, in fact, cannot view an individual in any other light.
The Office of Residence Life has desecrated its functions to the point of turning human interaction into a scientific process, the process of one event being absolutely and irreversibly responsible for a reaction or interaction.
Human existence and interaction is not a scientific process.
We cannot be measured or quantified. One action is not always the direct result of another.
If the Office of Residence Life cannot understand that what it sees could have any number of possible causes, then it will never be able to view an individual in an unbiased manner.
Instead, it will continue to take single actions and experiences and apply them to the entirety of an individual's being. Abraham Lincoln said, "If you look for the bad in people, you will surely find it."
The Office of Residence Life has made it an organizational standard to look for the bad in people and then forever frame that individual within that context.
The second complaint against the Office of Residence life focuses on the treatment of its RAs and Head Residents.
Grievances against the office include: unprofessionalism, disregard for personal opinions and lack of adequate compensation.
First I'll focus on the unprofessionalism of some professional staff members.
Some members of the professional staff do not understand the sociably acceptable standard for a proper and polite meeting between two people.
During meetings with members of the RA and HR staff, professional staff have been known to read and reply to e-mails, use a cell phone and not speak directly to the individual they are meeting with and even bring spouses to private events and processes. Standard business etiquette expects that during an entire meeting the subjects should focus their attention on each other.
During meetings, professional staff ask questions about personal issues.
Divulging aspects of their personal lives to professional staff, RAs and HRs have quickly found themselves being referred to the Counseling Center and Health Center.
Not only does this cause more emotional stress to the person, but it also shows disrespect for individual's feelings.
Where is the personal support they claim to give to us?
Where is the human ability to empathize?
Referrals should only be made to the Counseling Center when necessary, not for matters completely within the coping capacity of a healthy person.
Referral to a Counseling Center is not a subject taken lightly by anyone.
Additionally, professional staff members have repeatedly pushed people to go to the center despite repeated polite declines.
The Office of Residence Life does not seem to understand the nature of the people whom they serve.
During training sessions, the Office Residence Life has consistently treated its employees at a level that is far below their intelligence.
The system requires that we stand above the culture of college and enforce school policies.
We are held to colossal standards where perfection is the only option and any mistake, no matter the severity, is unacceptable.
With their wealth of knowledge and experience, the Office of Residence Life would fare better if it would treat its employees as peers and valuable instruments.
If the institution wishes employees to act in an appropriate manner, then it would do well to treat those employees the same way.
Theories of motivation maintain that people who receive ethical and fair treatment from their supervisors will perform their duties more efficiently than the same people treated poorly.
Looking further into motivational factors we find another issue: monetary compensation. Compensation is one of the most important motivators.
Professional staff members have repeatedly told the entire assembly of RAs and HRs that they are paid less than at other academic institutions.
By repeatedly comparing economic benefits, professional staff members have created an organizational culture of personal devaluation.
It creates an atmosphere in which people view the institution as valuing their services less than other academic institutions would.
I have related some of the current phenomena affecting the Office of Residence Life and by association each individual attending this university. The purpose of this letter is to expose the internal nature of the Office of Residence Life.
It is my hope my words will inspire change.
-- Name withheld
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