Sophomore Natasha Khurana began the school year as a community facilitator on the Mount Vernon Campus, an experience that she said “was the worst of (her) life.”
“By the time I resigned I had bronchitis and pneumonia, I was given three days to leave the dorm and I had midterms the up-coming week,” she said of her fall semester.
Khurana said the residents in her charge at Merriweather Hall were close-knit and friendly, a good group that she said she was sad to leave.
But other CFs have only good things to report about their experiences in GW residence halls.
“My residents are amazing,” said Mike Mattmiller, a junior CF in Mitchell Hall. “Being a CF has been one of the most rewarding things that I have done at GW.”
Mattmiller, who runs a Community Living and Learning Center program for gifted artists, said he has been able to work with residents and facilitate programs such as a rooftop art exhibit and monthly coffeehouses. These experiences have made the job fun, he said.
But Khurana said the amount of work required of her as a CF left her no time to eat, sleep or study.
Khurana decided to resign her post when she could no longer keep up with her responsibilities. Khurana’s grades were slipping – she made dean’s list her freshman year – she lost weight and was sick more frequently than before she started the job.
Tova Olson, director of Selection, Training and Development for CLLC, said the CF position is not for everyone and the responsibilities are different in each residence hall.
“CFs on Mount Vernon and CFs on Foggy Bottom will be different,” Olson said. “But so will a CF in Thurston (Hall) and a CF in another freshman residence hall.”
CFs are hired and then assigned to a hall in the summer. Khurana said CLLC did not tell her the extent of a CF’s responsibilities when she signed up to be one.
“They give you five lines of a job description when you sign up,” Khurana said. “But it is so much more than that. If you are a CF at Mount Vernon you are required to attend all the Mount Vernon functions that the Student Development Center puts on, plus you are on duty three and sometimes four nights a week. I felt that I had signed my life away.”
Mattmiller said his job allows him plenty of time to himself.
“I have my free time,” Mattmiller said. “Being a CF doesn’t prevent me from being involved in campus at all. I am on duty once a month, which may mean staying up until four or five in the morning if something happens. But duty is only once per month so it is not too bad.”
The differences between the two CF positions are enormous. While Mount Vernon CFs are on duty as many as three or four times a week, Mattmiller and others on the Foggy Bottom campus have this detail only once a month.
The number of residents is smaller at Mount Vernon, making CF responsibilities, including rounds, much shorter, according to Rebecca Sawyer, community director for Thurston Hall (check).
“The CFs at Mount Vernon may be more on the front lines when it comes to maintenance,” Sawyer said. “And they might have to have more nights on duty, but those will be very quiet nights in comparison with what a CF in Thurston may have to deal with.”
Mattmiller signed the CF contract, but said he found the actual commitments of the CF in Mitchell less demanding than he had anticipated.
“I envisioned it to be much worse,” Mattmiller said. “I read the famous clause in the contract about CLLC withholding the right to assign additional duties, but have never been overwhelmed.”
Khurana said CLLC policy was so strict on CF behavior it was detrimental to her job performance.
“By October, (CLLC was) making us log all interactions with our residents,” Khurana said. “We had to have a certain number of interactions and detail in e-mails that we had done so. Then they make you check your e-mail five to six times a day. They watch over every little thing that you do. There is just so much micro-management.”
CFs are required to have a certain amount of contact with their residents, depending on the year of study of their residents. CFs in freshman halls are required to be more involved in residents’ lives than CFs in upperclassmen halls, Sawyer said. She said CLLC began requiring CFs to record resident interactions several years ago because CFs asked for it.
“When we put the co-curricular requirements into action it was to reward the CFs for the smaller interactions with residents,” Sawyer said. “A CF would get credit for watching movies with their residents and not be required to host and plan an event.”
Sawyer said CFs also asked for the e-mail in order to avoid filling out forms on each encounter.
Khurana said the job required her to act more like a guardian than a student facilitator.
“I was there for the residents,” Khurana said. “They respected me because I treated them like adults. But by the time I quit things were ridiculous. Some parents got a hold of my number and were asking me to wake up the residents. I was getting constant messages from my supervisors, and I hardly had anytime for myself. The residents really don’t care as much as the CLLC thinks they do. They train you to be their watchdog.”
Olson acknowledged that some floor situations demand more from CFs than others.
“Some floors have more conflict and problems than others,” Olson said. “This means that a CF may have to put in more time, but the purpose of this is to better serve the residents.”
Khurana said her requests for help went unanswered.
“When I had problems and concerns the deans would not meet with me,” she said.
But the Mitchell CF said he received plenty of support.
“I have found the CLLC to be a very supportive and helpful organization,” Mattmiller said. “The program that I am involved in may pad the job a little so it doesn’t seem to be as bad.”
Khurana said she was removed from the residence hall system as soon as she quit, creating a difficult housing crunch before her mid-term exams.
“I tried to get permission to stay in a unoccupied room on the floor and my supervisor told me that she preferred that I didn’t live on the Mount Vernon campus,” Khurana said.
She said residents of her building signed a petition to allow her to stay in the hall, but she was still told a move out of the hall.
“The reason that Natasha was not allowed to stay in her hall was that residents may still come to her with problems after she had resigned her position,” Olson said.
Mattmiller said that he is disheartened by what he called bad publicity CFs have received recently.
“I have been disheartened by the articles in The Hatchet because I think that they have ignored the positive experiences that some CFs, like myself, are having,” Mattmiller said. “The CLLC is not there to screw over its staff.”
In the end, Khurana said she had no place to go but back to live with her parents in Baltimore, where she makes a daily train commute to GW.
“I would rather be at home than be near the CLLC who treated me so badly,” she said.