Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 47

Improving Praxis in Residence Life
On our campus, we're doing express checkouts where students basically take their own
pictures of their apartment. Leave the keys on the desk and send us the picture, and we
go in three days later, collect the keys, and assess damages. That was unheard of a year
ago. " Whoa. We can't ever let a student leave on their own. That's horrible. " What we're
finding is that the apartments are fine. They're in no worse condition than had we been
there in person. It just takes a lot less time, and it's more convenient for our staff.
The pandemic pushed Jason's department to adopt a new way to conduct check-outs
that relied on technology (i.e., sending pictures), placed more responsibility on the students,
and reduced staff involvement. While such a process had not seemed possible
prior to the pandemic, Jason's staff was able to test it out during this time and learned
that the process worked well.
Similarly, Charles, an entry-level staff member, leveraged technology to improve
his praxis.
Every single time I've had a frustrated email come in from a resident, if I've responded
to them like, " Hey, I'd love to chat about this over the phone, " it always goes well.
Sometimes it's not what they want to hear, but I do feel like giving them the opportunity
to ask questions and have a conversation about it. I haven't really run into issues where
they've been really upset at me over the phone or over Zoom, which is nice.
Replacing what may have previously been an email with a phone or Zoom call allowed
Charles to hear students' concerns and answer their questions, which reduced students'
frustrations.
The use of technology also increased access. Alexis, a mid-level manager and
member of an institution-wide committee that represents professional staff interests,
explained how, prior to the pandemic, " We'd have 15 to 20 people come and one of our
meetings this year had over 75 people come. " She noted that the virtual format had
increased " the ability for people to engage in governance, with university leadership.
I think there's been a lot more access, that's been missing for a long time. " Holding
meetings virtually seemed to be effective in increasing access and participation on an
institutional level. Overall, participants noted a wealth of benefits in the expanded use
of technology and indicated that many of these new practices should be continued past
the pandemic.
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
Our findings indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated challenges that already
existed in participants' departments, making the pandemic a rich context for studying
the experiences of residence life staff. Using Schlossberg's transition theory (Anderson
et al., 2011; Schlossberg, 2008) to guide our data analysis allowed us to home in on the
support and strategies residence life staff needed to cope with the challenges they encountered.
While these supports and strategies may be particularly important during
times of transition to new operating procedures, incorporating them into residence life
praxis could improve the work experiences of residence life staff beyond the context of
44 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

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

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