The independent news organization of Duke University

RCs work to define position

According to the position's official job description, a residence coordinator is responsible for supervising resident advisors, graduate assistants and between 400 and 800 students in a residential quadrangle. But, in practice, what does that actually mean?

As part of the fledgling 20-month-old Office of Residence Life and Housing Services, residence coordinators have not yet had their job defined beyond its formal description. Residence Life and Housing Services Director Eddie Hull said the RCs' chief duty is to elevate the academic climate outside the classroom and to make residence hall rooms more than just an address and a place for belongings.

"The RCs have a responsibility to challenge the way things have been," Hull said. "It's not about the place, but about the people."

Even though all the RCs share the same main responsibilities, there is significant autonomy in terms of how each RC chooses to perform his or her daily tasks, said Edens Quadrangle RC David Montag, who was among the first batch of RCs in July 2002. Montag added that there is a degree of discretion when dealing with students who violate the University's standards. But he said he does not see the RCs' role as policing students.

"To the extent that they are seen as someone with a badge is unfortunate and should only be reflective of the degree to which students are insisting on another level of behavior," Hull said. "The RCs walk a fuzzy line as friend and letting things slide."

Hull added that RCs--who can file incident reports, but not be a direct participant in a case as a witness, prosecutor or judge--need to hold students accountable for following University procedures, policies and regulations, and for showing mutual respect for others.

"[Misbehaving students] understood what was expected of them," Hull said, "and they made a choice knowing what the expectations were."

When violations occur, RCs are encouraged to maintain a supportive environment where students can turn to them for support and advice, Hull said.

Stephanie Carter, RC in the West-Edens Link, said RCs need to ensure that students demonstrate healthy behavior and drink responsibly.

"We don't spend our lives patrolling the residence halls trying to crack down on underage drinking. We just want everyone to be safe and know their limits," said Carter, who will return next year for her third year as an RC. "If that means breaking up an event because we feel it's too unsafe or out of hand, then we have to do that."

Hull said that in addition to helping students distinguish between rights and privileges, RCs are expected to help implement the new quad system, which entails encouraging students to identify themselves first as a member of the larger quad and any other affiliation--such as a member of a selective living group--second.

"People think the implementation of the quad system means the end of selective groups, and that's not the case. The selective groups are members of the quad, and hopefully they take pride in being members of their quad," Carter said. "[The quad system is] not a weird, strange beast. It's just another way to define a community."

Montag said fraternities and selective living groups should have missions and goals that focus on the betterment of the entire quad, not just their individual entity. He said all students in the quad should be integrated and working toward one common goal.

But helping the quad system come to fruition may be difficult for the RCs as they have live-in positions and are on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is also an entry-level position with a turnover rate of staff leaving every two to three years. Although only one RC out of 10 will not return for the next academic year, three out of nine RCs chose to leave last year. "It kind of feels like you're working all the time," said Gene Tien, RC for Crowell and Wannamaker quads.

The turnover rate is a reality of student affairs positions. Many RCs--who mostly have masters degrees--leave the position to pursue higher jobs in the institutional setting, said Hull, who has worked with over 300 RCs in his career.

"I have high aspirations," Montag said. "I want to be president of an institution."

Hull added he can only hope the University does not lose all its critical residential life staffers at one time and returning RCs serve as mentors for newer employees.

Meg Bourdillon contributed to this article.


Share and discuss “RCs work to define position” on social media.