By Page Forrest
As Sewanee’s student body continues to expand, Residential Life must grow and change with it. Starting in the 2016-2017 academic year, the residential hall staff structure will shift away from the Assitant Proctor-Proctor structure. The office also has begun using “residence hall” instead of “dorm,” moving away from the latter word’s negative connotations. Kate Reed (C’08), Director of Residential Life, explained the new structure on February 3 as well as the reasoning behind the transition.
Some of the major changes to be made are the removal of Assistant Proctors and the separation of Residential Life and Orientation staff. These jobs will still exist, but under different names. Those who serve in dorms year round will be Proctors. Applications for the position in the 2016-2017 year will close on February 12. Thirty-six to forty Proctors will be selected, as well as eight lead proctors, who will be responsible for groups of buildings, such as Quintard and Gorgas, or St. Luke’s, Hoffman, and Benedict. All Proctors will have their room and board compensated by the school. Reed explained that a large impetus behind the change was ensuring fair compensation for work provided. More often than not, she found that Assistant Proctors would be doing just as much work as Proctors, in addition to Orientation duties, for only $250.
Additionally, the office of Residential Life is creating the position of Orientation Leader. The name itself is unofficial and subject to change. Orientation Leader will be a semester-long position during the fall, and an opportunity for students who want to study away to become involved with Residential Life. The new position will also help simplify the duties of proctors, and create a more widespread support network for first year students. While compensation has not yet been determined, applications for the position will open up later in the semester. Claire Burgess (C’17), a former Assistant Proctor for St. Luke’s, says “I’m excited to see how the new positions will work out. I know several people who had to decide between Residential Life and studying abroad, so the creation of Orientation Leaders for one semester will help with that conflict.”
Reed emphasized that while the new system will benefit the Residential Life office, the primary impetus behind the change was to help students. “The goal is to have more leadership opportunities that are more fairly compensated for the work they do, and support our residents more consistently throughout their undergraduate experience.” Reed has been brainstorming changes to the structure since 2013, but a formal plan wasn’t actually implemented until August of 2015. “It used to just be hypothetical, we didn’t think they could happen. Within the past few months, we’ve realized we can actually make these changes.”
However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the adjustments. Hannah Boschert (C’15), who served as an Assistant Proctor in Hoffman, as well as Proctor for Hodgson and Gorgas during her time at Sewanee, comments, “I don’t think that that’s a bad idea. But at the same time, I’m worried that might cause a competitive rift between the Proctors and the Orientation Staff. I also think it’s important for the freshman to have an AP-like figure for the entire year, and not just first semester.”
How the changes will play out next year remains to be seen. The addition of another new dorm on campus as well as the implementation of the new residential staff structure may lead to chaos. Hopefully the Proctors and Orientation Staff will be able to provide a balanced support system for freshmen, as well as a more organized system for upperclassmen.Reed and other members of the Residential Life office put in months of hard work to bring this new structure to life. The success of these changes will be discovered in the fall as the new Proctors and Orientation Staff welcome the student body back to Sewanee.