Quitting the Team


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 [2015] 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 [2019] a lot during NSO” Heller

[2016] [pubqueen]


  1. campus conservative

    December 9, 2015 at 1:29 PM

    i am very conservative and even i think the dsa is way out of line

  2. The SAs are something that I was always proud to tell non-Grinnellians about. To me, the most essential aspect of Grinnell is the ideal of self-governance. I came to this school because I wanted to be in a place that gave students the freedom to try solving conflicts themselves, support each other through problems, choose their own courses (free of gen. ed. requirements), and generally take responsibility for their actions and place in the world.

    I visited a friend at a big university during college, and while we were hanging out in her room, the RA came down to tell us that someone had complained about the noise. My friend told me it wasn’t her first run-in with the RA (who had previously seen beer in her room) and having these incidents recorded could put her place as a student in jeopardy. I thought, “how different from Grinnell, where I can, and expect to, personally go to the guys playing music downstairs and ask them to turn it down; where I could ask my SA for help with that but they’re not going to get the other people in trouble; where my SA would help me out if I get drunk and not worry about my age.” Self-governance is one of, if not the, most important thing about Grinnell.

  3. Becca "Chicago Style Endnotes" Heller [hellerre1] [pubqueen]

    December 10, 2015 at 2:43 AM

    1. post publication correction:

    I meant for the title of the article to be: Quitting the Department of Student Affairs’ “Team”. The whole “losing my chances of a recommendation “ was just the title of the attachment I sent to the GUM that I forgot to change!! I meant it as a sarcastic joke to myself (probably associated with [2016] graduating anxieties) rather than a public sentiment framing this article as a high stakes thing. It was really just meant as a rant on something I have been thinking about for a long time.

    I would like to clarify that I also am not currently employed in the Department of Student Affairs. I wrote this because firstly I don’t agree with what they did. I don’t want people to see me as a tool of their office or as a person who endorses this behavior. BUT!!! I did not risk a job or letters of recommendation in writing this piece.

    Moving forward I want to be a part of the conversation where students are treated seriously and as equals once again, as is a crucial part to an intentional, self-governing community.

    Rebecca G. Heller. “Quitting the Department of Student Affairs’ “Team”.” The GUM. December 9, 2015. Accessed December 10, 2015.

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