Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 42

Improving Praxis in Residence Life
Limitations
Our interviews took place in the spring of 2021, while the COVID-19 pandemic continued
to impact operations on college and university campuses. Thus, our interviewees
were asked to reflect on their experiences while still managing the impact of the
pandemic; at that time, they may not have had the ability to truly process and make
meaning of their experiences. However, our interviews represent a unique perspective,
that of staff in the midst of dealing with the pandemic. Once staff have more distance
from this experience, they may forget some of the unique support or strategies they
used to manage their work at this time. Regardless, recognizing when interviews took
place is important to situate our findings.
During our analysis, we focused on similarities across participants. While this type
of analysis allowed us to highlight overarching themes from our data, we were unable
to explore differences by position type and level. We also limited our participant pool
to residence life staff, excluding custodial or maintenance staff whose experiences of
working in the residence halls were also impacted by the changes in operations during
the pandemic.
Finally, the majority of our participants identified as white. The pandemic disproportionately
impacted individuals of color (Wilder, 2021), including residence life
staff members of color (Scales, 2022). Our findings are unable to examine the ways
that racism and other systems of oppression intersected with the unique challenges
of the pandemic.
FINDINGS
Our findings revealed that though the pandemic led to drastic changes in how residence
life departments operated, challenges that staff encountered were not necessarily
new. As Kevin, a mid-level manager, explained, " COVID didn't create [the challenges
we are facing]. In some ways, COVID just exposed them in a way that we weren't aware
of previously. " The challenges that participants encountered were not new or unique to
the pandemic but had been an issue in their departments previously. These challenges
included a lack of transparent communication and decision-making as well as a lack of
work/life balance; participants responded to these challenges by prioritizing their own
well-being, re-evaluating their careers, and leveraging technology to improve residence
life praxis. We discuss these findings in more detail below.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, residence life staff encountered
drastically altered work environments, which challenged them
to cope with transitioning to new ways of operating and
completing their work responsibilities.
Volume 50, No. 2 * 2024 39

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

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