Editor’s note: Here is the online version of the proposed Community Adviser Contract
Quitting the Department of Student Affairs’ “Team”
I have worked very closely with Student Affairs in my three and a half years at Grinnell in several capacities. I have interviewed RLCs and candidates for the Dean of Students, I was a SA back in the dark ages when we weren’t paid and Hall Wellness Coordinators still existed, I spent this past summer as the NSO Intern working directly with and for the DSA (Department of Student Affairs), I know almost the entire department on a first-name basis, in my time working at Lyle’s I have gone through four RLC advisors, I have sat on the Harm Reduction Committee for over two years, I struggled with the demands of the DSA when co-hosting 10/10, and occasionally, I’m a student of this fine institution who has needed to reach out to the DSA for help for myself and others. Earlier this year during a “not-disciplinary-but-just-touching-base” nonoptional conversation I had with Jen Jacobsen and Sarah Moschenross (the new Dean of Students, for those of you who don’t spend their time on the third floor of the JRC) Sarah told me, “We consider you to be part of our team,” and that she and the DSA were excited that I could work with them as (apparently) a student leader to create positive change on this campus.
Well, at the risk of making enemies in the department: I quit your team.
I’m done holding my tongue in the hopes that the Associate VP of Student Affairs will write me a letter of recommendation. I’m angry, my peers are angry, and it’s about time you listened to us rather than pretending to hear.
Recently, I found out about the plans to change the Student Advisor role to a Community Advisor, a change suspiciously looking more and more like what people think of when they hear about the generic Resident Advisor role in other schools. Turns out, unlike last year’s attempt to change the SA role, Student Affairs didn’t even have a comprehensive CONVERSATION with most SAs, let alone the student body. A year or two ago, I would have been completely shocked and blindsided by this course of action, but now, I’m hardly surprised. My issues with Student Affairs goes way beyond this though: everything, from when I worked for them for NSO, to how they try to tell me how to run the [pub], to the way they have recently been treating the student conduct process, is on my large list of the issues I have with the department as a whole.
I do not have the space or time right now to explain all of my grievances, but I’d like to throw out some ideas around why I’m no longer surprised by the way the DSA has been acting. Let’s start with the biggest buzzword of all: self-gov. I fear that the RLCs and the majority of the new staff in the DSA do not understand Self Governance. Logically, this makes them nervous and unsure about how to handle their discomfort with the concept. But, instead of learning and embracing self-gov, more often than not I have felt that these particular administrators are trying to control what they don’t understand, manifesting this fear by looking to “peer institutions” for leadership. And to be blunt, there is no question in my mind that the revolving door of staff in the DSA, where RLCs cycle like clockwork and we cannot keep a Director of Residence Life for more than a year (RIP Jon Sexton), exacerbates this problem. Put simply, Grinnell is NOT like other schools (Duh. That’s why we go here). We are an institution that should be leading with Self Governance.
And where could they learn about this mythical and apparently extremely difficult to understand concept of Self Governance? If only there were several smart people who self-selected to go to an isolated place where they were intentional about living under the principles of self-gov on a daily basis (and not out of necessity for a job) for them to talk to…
Another problem, though: even if the DSA did ask, I no longer trust them to listen to students. I no longer feel that they TRUST the student body. Talking with a small self-selecting group of student leaders does not mean automatically understand the needs of the students here. Grinnell boasts its student involvement on many levels of decision-making, but without trusting or listening to what we have to say, isn’t it just a mask? As Miriam Clayton  said so well, “In my short time in the real world, I’ve run into lots of shitty administrators and can navigate them only because of the invaluable experience I gained being TAKEN SERIOUSLY at Grinnell.”
Due to word count, my rant will come to a close… But I promise, once I make it past the several papers I already am late turning in, I’ll get back to writing about my anger and frustrations towards the DSA.
With love for self-gov,
Becca “that person who talked at  a lot during NSO” Heller