Residence Life Coordinators: A Step in the Right Direction

After the long and divisive debate about Campus Safety at Bates last semester, I was totally unsure of what things would look like when I returned to campus this fall. When I arrived at Residence Life staff training for Junior Advisors (JAs) and Residence Coordinators (RCs) in late August, I was surprised when I was introduced to five new professional staff members in Residence Life who were taking on an entirely new role. 

These five are referred to as the Residence Life Coordinators, and we were told they would be taking on a lot of responsibilities previously held by Campus Safety. These coordinators respond to calls regarding noise complaints, well-being checks, and pretty much every residential situation besides room lockouts or emergencies involving immediate violence or harm to campus community members. 

Coordinators also make rounds throughout campus outside of business hours. Every evening and on weekend afternoons, they walk through campus buildings to make sure all is well. 

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first, and I heard similar sentiments from other students. After all, this new model is a huge change in approach. Campus Safety might have felt threatening to students, but they rarely entered residence halls unless a call was made. A proactive approach of staff entering buildings on their own terms seemed intimidating. 

But as Residence Life training went on and I got to know some of these coordinators better, I started to feel more comfortable about the year ahead. And as both a JA and a student, within just a month, it’s become clear to me that creating these positions was the right call. 

Coordinators walking through campus at night and on weekends means so much more than busting parties and putting an end to everyone’s fun. While that does happen on occasion, I don’t really think it occurs more or less often than it did when it was Campus Safety’s responsibility, and feels less aggressive when it does. 

The coordinators have been of great help to me and to my First Year Center. Having a coordinator on call at all times means there’s always someone I can reach out to when I don’t know how best to assist one of my residents. It renders faster and better results, and creates a more welcoming, community-oriented environment for my first years, where they know they will always get the assistance they need when they reach out. 

I have heard of a few instances of coordinators shutting down games of pong, but I have also heard of countless instances where coordinators were able to connect a student with resources they needed to better their Bates experience. 

Just last weekend, I reached out to a coordinator, Zach Brown-Cross, for advice on how to assist a student with an immediate need. He not only helped that student right away, but has returned to our First Year Center almost every day to check on that student, and has also asked me frequently how the student is doing. 

These coordinators are not just disciplinarians, but friendly and helpful faces around campus. They always say hello, smile, and wave to any student they’ve had the opportunity to connect with in their time here, and at least to me, their presence feels comfortable.. They’re also just really fun people! At this point, if I attend a Residence Life meeting where one of them doesn’t lead us in a game or offer up a few jokes, I leave disappointed. 

I do not think that the work in reforming and potentially abolishing Campus Safety has been finished, but I think a great start has been made in reducing violence, hate, and tension on campus. 

Bringing Brown-Cross, Anna Brown, Sarah Garijo-Garde, Matt Nguyen, and Markiyah Bullard to our campus has been what will hopefully be the first step in the right direction. I truly believe that we have the capability to fight for a campus environment where every student feels totally safe, comfortable, and welcomed, and while we may not have arrived there yet, I think the journey has begun.