Students and Colleagues,
I am writing to provide clarity on adjustments we are making to the Community Advisor (CA) structure, and the ways in which the changes will enable us to strengthen our first-year program and better support our CAs. In an effort to correct misinformation, I thought it would be helpful to share some facts about both the process and the decision leading to these adjustments. The FAQs below also serve to address the specific questions we’ve heard.
We arrived at these changes, announced to CAs two weeks ago, after a process that engaged students and provided them with the opportunity to provide input into the decision. In December 2020, we undertook a study of the College’s housing operations, with assistance from consultants Brailsford & Dunleavy (B&D), as a follow-up to last year’s housing study. Given the College’s commitment to enhancing the experiences of first-year students and the CAs who provide them peer support, we analyzed the CA program at the same time. To inform that process, and in addition to the information that B&D gathered through the broader housing study, the consultants interviewed Residential Life staff, conducted focus groups with the CAs, and spoke with residential life professionals at several peer colleges.
The findings and recommendations we received from B&D affirmed Kenyon’s philosophy of peer-to-peer support, but also led us to conclude that we needed to realign the CA role and responsibilities to better support the developmental progression and needs of our students. We made the decision to shift CAs from the apartments to the first-year areas in order to provide a higher level of support and build community among first-year students as they acclimate to Kenyon and college life in general. There will be no reduction in the total number of CAs. The change, however, allows us to reduce the ratio of first-year residents to CAs from the current 35-45:1 to 20:1, creating the opportunity for more meaningful experiences for both CAs and first-year students. This change also means that 48-60 additional spaces in apartments will be available to students, on a more equitable basis, through the general housing lottery.
Below are a few Q&As to help address some additional questions we have heard. If you have any further questions or if you want to discuss in person, please contact Director of Residential Life Jillian Yoder at email@example.com.
Finally, I want to reiterate my staff’s and my commitment to adapting our practices and policies to meet the evolving needs of our student body, consistent with Kenyon’s values. And, our doors are always open for further conversation.
Meredith Harper Bonham ‘92
Vice President for Student Affairs
Q. What changes are you making to Community Advisors (CAs)?
We are making changes to enhance the experiences of both our first-year students and the CAs. We are maintaining the same number of CAs, but are better aligning CA roles with the needs of our students, especially first-year students. In December 2020, we engaged the consulting firm Brailsford & Dunleavy to evaluate the CA program. We wanted to determine whether the current program is meeting the needs of residents, especially first-years, while also seeking to make the program as meaningful as possible for CAs. As a result of this study, which included discussions with CAs, we will:
- Shift more CAs to first-year areas, improving the current student-to-CA ratio from 35-45:1 to 20:1.
- Maintain the current student-to-CA ratio in upper class areas at 45-60:1.
- Shift CAs from the apartment areas, where students live more independently, to areas where they can have more meaningful impact on the experiences of first- and second-year students.
- Two graduate assistants (GAs) enrolled in Kent State University’s higher education master’s degree program will reside in the apartments in the first-year areas and assist the Director of the First-Year Experience and Director of Student Engagement, as well as support students living in the apartment areas.
Q. Why are you making these changes?
As you would expect, first-year students require more focus and attention than older students. These changes concentrate CA resources where they are needed most – helping students succeed and thrive in their first year at Kenyon.
Q. Will these changes result in a reduction in the number of CAs?
No. It simply focuses more CAs where they are needed most – on first-year students. The Office of Residential Life still plans to hire a total of about 45 CAs for the 2021-22 year, which is about the same as pre-pandemic numbers.
Q. Are graduate assistants from Kent State replacing Kenyon CAs? Are you outsourcing the CAs?
No, there will be no reduction in CA positions. CAs, however, will not be assigned to the apartments. Our analysis found that students in apartments operate more independently than underclass students and have different (and generally fewer) needs. The two Kent State graduate students will have very different roles than the CAs. The graduate assistants bring experience and professional interest in residential life and can provide the type of administrative support that students in apartments typically require. This allows us to deploy CAs where they are needed most, which is with first-year and second-year students. We are shifting existing resources from the apartments to focus on those students.
Q. How do you expect outside GAs from Kent State to understand the Kenyon culture?
They have experience and professional interest in residential life. They will be living on campus and supporting the Director of Student Engagement and Director of First-Year Experience in developing programs aimed at building community on campus. Although the GA model is new at Kenyon, it is common practice to have graduate assistants serving in an apprentice capacity to assist with student life.
Q. Do CAs have to reapply each year? Is this a new requirement?
For years, the informal practice has been that CAs meet with their direct supervisor at the conclusion of the academic year in order to discuss their plans. This year, we formalized the process of CAs reapplying for the fall in order to a) provide more equitable opportunity for students to apply for the positions and b) to promote a conversation between CAs and supervisors about the position.
Q. If you are involved in extracurricular activities, such as athletics, can you still be a CA?
Yes. Our policies do not prohibit such activities but simply require a discussion with Residential Life staff to ensure that the CAs can manage all time commitments. In fact, many CAs engage in other extracurricular activities. However, we do want CAs to understand that their role should be a priority, and that they need to manage their time appropriately in order to meet the expectations of the role. Unless a CA also wishes to be an Orientation Leader (due to the time conflict), they are not and will not be asked to forego other extracurricular commitments.
Q. Were CAs consulted in the process?
Yes. It is first worth noting that we also gathered a significant amount of data from students through last year’s general housing study. As part of that process, nearly 50% of the student body completed the quantitative survey, in addition to student focus groups. For the housing operations study, only CAs were consulted because of the potential to impact them most specifically. Director of Residential Life Jillian Yoder communicated twice with CAs via email, and offered virtual drop-in hours for CAs to discuss any concerns they may have had.