Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 48

Improving Praxis in Residence Life
the pandemic. In this discussion and implications for practice section, we identify the
challenges that participants faced and discuss the support and strategies that could be
used to overcome them.
One of the challenges was a lack of transparent communication and decisionmaking.
Our findings indicate a need to re-evaluate how decisions are communicated
within departments as well as at divisional and institutional levels. Previous
research indicates that residence life staff desire transparent communication and that
a lack of transparency can make them feel unheard or unvalued (e.g., Agrawal et al.,
2018). Kuk and colleagues (2010) noted the importance of " honest and transparent
communication " in student affairs divisions but also acknowledged that it is a rarity
(p. 28). Our findings support these assertions, as participants indicated that reasons
for decisions were often not communicated, and communication was slow or completely
lacking. Not having all the information created additional stress, as participants
navigated questions from students, parents, and other staff or tried to develop
responses to changing circumstances. While leadership may not always be able to
share everything about how and why a decision was made, there seems to be a need
to reassess what information can and should be shared and how it could be shared
most effectively. The practice of Rita's supervisor-to host a quick Zoom meeting to
give Rita a heads up about changes-may offer one potential approach for improving
communication. Holding the meeting via Zoom, rather than sending an email, allows
staff to ask clarifying questions. In addition, having clear communication structures
in advance allows departments to provide ongoing transparent communication
during stressful times, when policies and procedures change frequently.
Another challenge our findings highlight is a lack of work/life balance for residence
life staff. Previous scholarship has highlighted the difficulties in creating this
balance for residence life staff, who frequently work long hours and encounter stressful
work environments (Rankin & Gulley, 2018). Managing the demands of serving on
call and caring for students in crisis can lead to secondary trauma and burnout (Lynch
& Glass, 2020; McDaniel, 2021); residence life staff-and student affairs professionals,
more broadly-often engage in self-sacrifice, putting their students' needs above
their own (Lynch & Glass, 2020; Sallee, 2020). Due to these social norms and work environments,
staff encounter barriers to prioritizing self-care and their own well-being
(Lynch & Glass, 2020; Rankin & Gulley, 2018). Similar to other research (e.g., Scales,
2022), we found that the pandemic further increased residence life staff's workloads,
making them impossible to manage. These increased work demands conflict with the
. . . participants indicated that reasons for decisions were often
not communicated, and communication was slow or completely
lacking. Not having all the information created additional stress,
as participants navigated questions from students, parents, and
other staff or tried to develop responses to changing circumstances.
Volume 50, No. 2 * 2024 45

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

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