During the Easter 2023 semester, proctors were told to remain on campus and on-duty during spring break. The order from the Office of Residential Life was then revoked and dismissed as a miscommunication issue. Student proctors who were subject to the changes and had to alter their spring break plans as a result, disagree, contending that this incident is the latest in a long-line of “miscommunications” that have been felt by proctors for years.
Two current proctors, disheartened and tired from what they describe as frequent and negative encounters with res life, told The Sewanee Purple that they are happy to be leaving their positions after this semester. The Purple reached out to residential life staff, proctors, and the leader of a student initiative created solely to communicate with res life to determine what contributed to the spring break debacle, but also what the underlying issues are that proctors face in their daily efforts to do their jobs.
Historically, Sewanee’s Office of Residential Life has always made it optional for student proctors to stay over spring break, with the incentive of additional compensation. This year, what res life referred to as “a lot of different miscommunication at various roles that did not line up with what the process actually was,” according to Casey Kreger, Director Residential Life, student proctors referred to as “not a miscommunication…they sat us down at a proctor meeting in February and said we have to be on duty,” according to Hannah Rosser (C’24). This incident, along with many others, has led to “a lot of discontent with res life,” said Jarrett Willis (C’23), from student proctors and the student body in general.
“Every spring prior to this one, proctors have always been asked to stay…do this and you can get some extra compensation in whatever format, it’s an optional thing,” said Kreger. “It’s always been optional. This past springtime, there was a lot of miscommunication that was occurring at various different levels,” said Kreger. “And at the end of the day, we did have proctors that were on call, but they did say ‘hey, I’ll be here and I’ll do it. They were not forced to do it.”
Veteran proctors Rosser and Willis claim that this was not the case. Willis, a senior proctor, said that he personally had to alter his plans in order to stay for spring break this year when he originally was not supposed to.
“I was on duty for the first night of spring break, and when the head proctors said in our group chat to, if there was a problem talk to your AC [Area Coordinator] about it, so I talked to my area coordinator Nic [Savage] about it, and he essentially told me, ‘sorry, that sucks, you still have to be here you’re still on duty.’ So then I talked to the heads [head proctors] about it…and then they just ignored me,” he said. “It’s not as bad as some others who had to completely cancel flights and vacations and stuff, but I did have to stay an extra day.”
When told what Kreger said about the proctors being asked to stay over spring break, Rosser said, “that’s a lie….people in the proctor group chat were trying to pay people to cover their shifts and res life blatantly said ‘We don’t care. You are expected to be on duty.’”
“We [proctors] never signed anything. There is no spring break policy,” Rosser added. “Res life’s favorite thing is to scare us into doing our job. Res life was really really hostile and I can assure you firsthand it was not a miscommunication.”
“We knew during the first semester it was a possibility and the head proctors assured us if we didn’t want to be on duty we didn’t have to be,” Rosser said. “The area coordinators got very hostile. It was a huge mess. Res life was extremely rude all year long and some people did actually have to stay over spring break that didn’t want to.”
Danielle Vosburgh, assistant director of residential life, who claimed to not know enough about the spring break process and declined to be interviewed, sent out an email to proctors during the confusion. Her message stated “If you are not able to be on call our policy says that you are on call until it becomes covered or unless your AC (area coordinator) approves you to not be on campus.”
Willis said his issue for the proctors goes beyond this year’s spring break. Willis said, “res life, I feel like, has gotten a little bit cocky and arrogant, and…not mistreats as in abuse or anything, but sometimes maybe mis-values their proctors and doesn’t really show them the respect they deserve. I feel like there’s been a lot of huge lack of communication this year, mainly coming from res life.”
Exacerbating the challenges faced by proctors and other students who have to deal with the administration, Willis said, “they [res life] don’t do their job, they’re never in the office, they’re always late to everything, and then if I’m late to something it’s like the end of the world. If they skip meetings, miss meetings, it’s, ‘oh, it’s just whatever, sorry.’ If I miss meetings, then I get a report written about me, I have to sit there and have a meeting where they very disrespectfully question my life.”
Rosser said there is a common perception that res life “mistreats the students” and “doesn’t care [about proctors].” For this reason, many of the proctors are “scared to talk,” she added. Many of the student proctors who The Purple reached out to interview did not respond or declined to be interviewed because they are trying to continue as proctors in the coming year.
The issues have reached such a level of concern on campus that the Student Government Association (SGA) recently created a res life committee headed by Dixon Cline (C’23).
“Res life sent emails that were incomprehensive, unenforceable, and led to mass confusion…and that’s in addition to every other complaint that has been made. So we thought this semester, it’s important that we have a longstanding res life committee that can address these issues and meet with Casey, or whoever” Cline told The Purple.
Sewanee’s website describes proctors as “leaders throughout the campus community,” adding that “the position of a University proctor is both an honor and a great responsibility.”
Willis said that he became a proctor “ to be a more positive influence in the community. I felt like as a freshman and sophomore, I wasn’t exactly a leader. I didn’t really express what I think I have in leadership capabilities. And, I thought proctorship was a good way to do that and reach out to the younger people and underclassmen that maybe are just getting to Sewanee and are confused and I can be there to help them out.”
Given recent situations and the current strained relationship between res life and proctors, it is evident that proctors are not feeling like they are being treated or respected as the student leaders they are. Asked to respond to the proctor’s issues and their roles on campus, Kreger told The Purple: “my philosophy is proctors, while they are student leaders, they’re students first.” With this in mind, and the creation of the new Res Life SGA Committee, one can hope that res life and proctors will have a better understanding and communication moving forward.
For any concerns regarding res life, Cline encourages students to reach out to SGA, either through Instagram dm @sewanee_sga or email SGA@sewanee.edu. You can also reach out to res life through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Cole contributed to this story.
Sounds like there might be a shortage of proctors next year if they don’t address this. Res life needs to do better.