CLLC uses `hosts’ to create community

Details of GW’s pilot Community Host Initiative still are being ironed out, but as the program gets on its feet, some campus residents and employees question its necessity and effectiveness.

Administrators, however, said the program will enhance community and integrate academics into residence hall life.

“Obviously there wasn’t a need for it,” said Richard Bryson, executive assistant to Associate Dean of Students Jan-Mitchell Sherrill and a coordinator of the program. “It was, however, necessary to create a sense of community.”

It will take time for everyone to settle into the new program, Bryson said, but he said he feels the program will be good for the residence hall community.

The CHI program, an initiative established by the Community Living and Learning Center, employs students from Crawford Hall to secure the residence hall entrance from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The host program, which is being tested in Crawford, replaces the University Police-supervised Community Service Aides, who monitored the hall and checked IDs of residents’ guests.

Bryson said the host program was conceived late last spring to promote CLLC’s community-oriented philosophy.

“One of the areas (CLLC) felt was inconsistent with our philosophy was security,” Bryson said. “You’d go into the residence hall and there would be this kind of discouraging figure at the desk and you’d be like, `I don’t know who you are.’ It kind of scares you.”

Bryson said CLLC administrators felt that putting students at the front desk of their own residence halls would emphasize CLLC’s philosophy of community by making students feel more comfortable.

Assistant Dean of Students Mark Levine said the hosts will work with UPD, but they will not be directly supervised by the campus police department.

But although hosts have started working in Crawford Hall, Dolores Stafford, UPD director, said she has not been contacted by CLLC about the program and does not know much about it. Stafford said she sent an e-mail to the CLLC account last week requesting details about the program, but she said she has not received a response.

Rebecca Sawyer, the community director of Crawford Hall, said CLLC is trying to break away from the confrontational role that has been projected by residence hall staff members.

“We are trying to move away from seeing the community facilitators as a police officer,” Sawyer said.

She said CFs and hosts will plan programs for residents to promote the social role residence hall staffers play in their buildings.

“Because (CFs) still have that confrontational role, there’s a certain level where students will or will not open their door and hang out with CFs that are walking the building, looking for issues or situations that are going on,” Sawyer said.

Hosts and CFs who were contacted for comment said they were instructed by CLLC officials not to comment to reporters about the program.

Some students expressed concern that security in the hall would not be as tight because students, instead of UPD-trained CSAs, would be responsible for security.

“Someone could try and force their way into the building. (Hosts) might not be adequately trained to handle that person,” Crawford Hall resident Kristen Zaehringer said.

“At the hall meeting, this program was presented as an advantage, but at the cost of security because you’re having kids do it,” said Mark SooHoo, a Crawford Hall resident. “It’s a trade-off. They said the kids would be able to facilitate it easier, but they haven’t been able to do it yet.”

Levine said the program will not reduce the building’s security, but instead will provide students with “a different sense of security.”

Levine also said the program was not created to save money on security. All of the student hosts are paid $6.50 an hour and Bryson receives a wage and free housing in Crawford. Funds also will be allocated to the hosts for activities they wish to plan. An official budget, however, will not be planned until next semester when CLLC has a better idea of how much money is necessary for the program.

Sawyer said community hosts play a different role than CFs.

“When the hosts are walking the building, they’re just another student,” Sawyer said. “They’re a host, they’re building community and they won’t have that role as a confrontational type of person.”

Hosts will enhance residence hall life by planning social activities and study groups, Bryson said.

“I’m the one making the cookies, putting the coffee out,” Bryson said. “The bulk of the work still will probably be (the students’).

“I’m different from a college student,” Bryson said. “I’m in an office all day and I go to bed at around 11 at night. What time I do have available, however, I will devote to students.”

Some residents said they are optimistic about the program and feel it needs time to develop.

“I see it as a promising and potentially valuable program,” said Eric Haskell, treasurer of Crawford Hall.

One of the hosts, who asked not to be identified, said students will “wait and see” how the program evolves.

-Sara E. Murphy contributed to this report.

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