Our View: ResLife needs a morale boost

With Truman State University’s 2020-21 school year steadily approaching, preparation efforts are in full swing. Organizing, hiring new staff and planning goals are common practices this time of the year for campus offices. One department that has experienced heightened difficulty with the process, however, is Residence Life

This year witnessed record-low numbers of student adviser applications. After a mere 17 applications were sent in by the initial deadline, an extension was granted that allowed for about 30 more. Nonetheless, that gradual increase pales in comparison to years past. 

Formerly consistent surpluses of aspiring SAs had previously been met with low demand. Just last year, for instance, the department only had 15 spots available and a majority of SAs coming back, turning down most interviewees. Considering returning SA amounts lying in the single digits, ResLife will now have to make up for more than four times that figure.

In response, the department has looked to its current student advisers as means of recruitment. Primarily utilizing student referrals, ResLife has largely relied on nudges from its student employees to fill a substantial need.

Though no department can completely control low application numbers and higher turnover, new trends concerning ResLife appear to be somewhat alarming. There had been relatively little problem attracting students to the position in years prior. The sudden drop in prospective as well as returning student advisers begs the question: Why now? 

As with many University problems, maybe enrollment numbers are to blame. With less students coming to campus in recent years, there could understandably be less supply — but it seems that ResLife’s greatest deficiency is in morale. 

There will always be unpreventable elements contributing to these circumstances, but department leaders should still think about their role in these matters. A new curricular approach instated by ResLife Director Jamie Van Boxel last fall, for instance, has brought abrupt changes to a once streamlined system. Regardless of the framework’s merits, that quick transition has created an observable burden on many staff members.

That intensified workload and apparent exhaustion were reflected in the sweeping resignations of several hall directors last semester. Without that guidance, student staff members were left to fend for their respective houses and buildings largely by themselves, on top of already amplified duties during the curriculum transition. Residents watched as their mentors scurried to find balance between school and work amid the confusion of responsibilities placed upon them. 

Students notice when those around them are stressed and often look for answers, a consideration that drives many students to become SAs to begin with. When the anxiety residents recognize in their superiors is seen as employment-based, however, that job probably won’t be highly desired. 

We, The Index Editorial Board, acknowledge the challenges that come with these transitions but believe more could be done to create an appealing environment to work in. While hall directors have been replaced and curriculum is being worked out, there is still a long way to go in terms of recovering from the panic of last semester. ResLife’s heightened emphasis on staff requirements this year has deserted the very public it aims to serve — its residents, who in turn become sources of new staff — making the issue systemic. 

If ResLife wants to see greater influx in the future, perhaps it should focus less on lifting restrictions for students and instead celebrating the efforts of those who have put in the work to look out for their prosperity. Although such a problem is not likely to be solved overnight, lessening the demand upon ResLife staff members seems like a good place to start.