At GW, the students tasked with keeping order in the residence halls forego the traditional title of residential advisor in favor of a name with an even friendlier connotation – community facilitator. Theoretically, the job of a CF would be to build community within University residence halls. In practice, however, CFs are at best a slight nuisance and at worst an added set of law enforcement within the halls. This year, the introduction of a significantly higher number of CFs into upperclassman dorms has facilitated the breakdown of community by reducing the feeling of privacy, trust and responsibility among the student body.
For freshman residence halls, CFs are a necessity. When more than 2,000 new students come to campus every year and live away from their parents for the first time – often with randomly selected roommates – serious issues arise. As an older resident living among freshmen, the CF serves as an authority figure when conflicts occur between roommates or as a valuable resource when a Thurston resident has too much to drink during Welcome Week.
Upperclassmen, however, are not in need of such services. Friction has mounted this year between CFs and their residents because upperclassmen are not being treated with the respect they deserve. Many of the CFs are younger than the residents they are patrolling and have, in some situations, proven to be unbelievably disrespectful.
In one instance, a New Hall CF forced a 21-year- old resident to pour out his beer after initially arriving at the room in response to loud music. This action directly contradicts a CLLC policy stipulating residents of legal drinking age are allowed to consume alcohol in the dorms. Subsequently, the resident received a note informing him that he was “reported to have been disrespectful to CLLC staff members performing their assigned duties.” University administrators cannot expect students to remain respectful toward a group of peers who refuse to accord commensurate respect to their fellow students and neighbors.
A CF’s first concern should not be to write up their peers, but rather to encourage positive and responsible behavior. If music is too loud, a friendly knock and request to lower the volume would suffice. CFs need to use restraint when dealing with their peers, and write up students only as a last resort when residents are repeatedly uncooperative. Unfortunately, their elevated status within the residence hall communities makes some CFs overzealous in performing their duties.
CFs should not serve as a supplemental squad for the University Police. UPD makes regular patrols through the dorms and is well-equipped to handle noise violations, underage drinking and many other problems arising in the residence halls. The University expends significant resources when it provides each CF with free housing and a stipend. GW could save time, money and resources by simply directing UPD to deal with these issues rather than more CFs.
All the blame for the increased CF presence, however, should not merely be directed toward the University. Residential Life Director James Kohl noted that the increased presence of CFs this year is due to “an increase in roommate conflicts and behavioral problems” and that the CFs have been introduced into the halls to “help residents to have more positive interaction in their rooms.” Students often look forward to living in upperclassman housing because of the absence of CFs. It is possible, though, that continued instances of vandalism in Ivory Tower last year prompted the switch in CF policy. To administrators, GW students may have proven they are incapable of living in upperclassman halls without the supervision of CFs. This year, students should take the initiative to self-regulate their dorms in an effort to prove they are able in the future to live in dorms without CFs.
All students should be responsible for safeguarding the rights and freedoms that they want to enjoy. It is clear that University’s main concern is not building community, but rather policing the residence halls. GW and its students need to prove they can trust one another. No community has ever been built without a foundation of mutual trust and respect.