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Improving Praxis in Residence Life
While many participants noted a lack of transparent
communication in their departments and at their institutions,
some shared positive examples where fast communication
and transparency helped them manage their responsibilities
more effectively and reduced their stress.
Lack of Transparent Communication and Decision-Making
Participants highlighted a lack of transparent communication and decision-making,
which created additional stress for them. For example, Charles, an entry-level staff
member, said,
I do remember feeling like my supervisors were making decisions that they thought
just genuinely made sense that didn't but didn't necessarily communicate why those
decisions were being made. So, I remember I was still supervising a desk, and we had
to come up with entirely new standards and protocols for how those desk workers were
going to work. I remember the supervisors above me were like, " Okay, they need to wear
gloves. They need to do all of these certain things. " And I was like, " Well, we've had this
communication from campus saying that gloves don't really do anything. Why are you
telling us we need to wear gloves? "
Charles not only questioned the decision his supervisors made but also noted the lack
of transparency in the reasons behind the decision. He ended up doing his own research
and presenting it to his supervisors, which created additional work for him.
Participants also questioned the lack of communication about decisions or the
timing of communication. As Becky, a mid-level manager, noted, " I appreciate getting
a heads up before it's announced to the community, and that didn't happen. I found
out at the same time as the community did. So that made me a little apprehensive. "
Not knowing about what changes were coming until they were announced to the community
left no time for participants like Becky to prepare for questions that could arise
from these changes.
Senior leader participants shared similar challenges. During the pandemic, many
decisions were made at institutional or even system- or state-wide levels, and senior
leadership felt left in the dark. For example, Sean, a senior leader at a small private
institution, explained,
There was not a lot of transparency about what was going on; things worked out the way
that they needed to, in a very safe and secure way. I think in the moment it was like this,
what the hell is going on? And, can someone just tell me? Especially as someone that's
overseeing on campus housing, I need to know what to tell these students and these
parents that are calling at me, and yelling at me, and asking if they're going to have
a space to stay in the fall. And I don't know.
While Sean acknowledged that things worked out in the end, he struggled with the
lack of communication in the moment, as residence life was often the first department
students and parents reached out to for answers.
40 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

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

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