House Advisors Adjust to Increased Responsibility in Dorms Amidst Pandemic

By Ellyn Fritz||News Editor

The role of Franklin & Marshall’s House Advisors (HAs) has drastically changed due to the implications of the pandemic; however, F&M’s HAs in first-year college houses are still operating with the same guidelines as they’ve had in past academic years—guidelines that many HAs feel are not fit for a semester amid a global pandemic. 

In an interview with The College Reporter, an HA from one of F&M’s college houses expressed some of the concerns that she and fellow HAs have voiced upon recently returning to campus. As a whole, she was concerned about the disorganization among HAs and those in charge. More specifically, HAs are requesting an update from the guidelines of the 2019-2020 academic year as those are not sufficient given the current circumstances. Additionally, HAs are requesting a more detailed disciplinary guideline to better understand when a first-year student is behaving inappropriately. 

The HA who spoke with TCR did note that the administration is trying to quickly adapt to rapidly changing conditions; however, many HAs want a more clear definition of their role to hold more responsibility within the community. They do not want anything left up to interpretation yet both first-years and HAs alike have noted that there are inconsistencies in culture between college houses and even various floors within the college houses. 

During a conversation with TCR about the current circumstances on-campus and potential confusion, Dean Shaw said that she would not be surprised if some people expressed that they feel as though there is a level of disorganization as protocol and conditions are changing daily as the school navigates re-opening, “When students are saying they feel confused, I do not take that personally as I am still learning while we are going through this together. For the HAs, there are situations that administration has not even thought of so it is important to trust your instincts and go back to the very basics of the pledge, mask-wearing, social distancing, and participating in daily self-screening. If there are situations where you feel uncomfortable at all, ere on the side of safety.” 

An HA from a different college house seemed more concerned about what the imminent future will look like, “Administration has done a good job of setting safety guidelines and freshmen have been complying for the most part. However, the role of an HA has become so much more challenging and I know that some of my coworkers are concerned as to how these guidelines will hold up now that students are being released and classes are starting.” She is correct that while students should feel comfortable on campus and be allowed to prioritize thinking about academia rather than COVID, however, if students begin to let their guards down, it could be problematic for the safety of the community. 

Apart from concerns of disorganization and lack of communication, HAs have no guarantee that they will be paid if the school pivots to fully remote learning. Considering Housing Advisors have jeopardized their health to do their jobs, the lack of confirmation surrounding finances has led to frustration amongst them. 

 In order to remain open and set the status quo for behavior, Franklin & Marshall is not tolerating infractions and taking violations of safety standards very seriously since students have set foot on campus. Dean Moriarty noted that “because Franklin & Marshall is taking this so seriously, we have been able to avoid what has happened [large gatherings] at many other colleges, even colleges of similar size, which is that they have to shut down, quarantine the campus, move students off, and only do remote learning. So the fact we are being vigilant about our guidelines, that has helped us to avoid that. We have seen that a group of 70 people will gather and have a party without masks and social distancing and two days later, 35 of them will have tested positive for COVID, so that is what we are trying to avoid and that is why we have rules and guidelines in place.” 

Some first-year students have struggled to live up to the standards of the F&M pledge and expectation of campus life, breaking social distancing guidelines. As of now, a number of freshmen have been suspended after gathering in large groups and hosting parties in their dorm rooms, however, F&M’s administration has not disclosed the number of students who have failed to comply with social distancing guidelines. 

On the subject of pending suspensions for those students who did not comply with regulations of the student pledge, Dean Shaw said that “I have not met anyone with willful intent to hurt anyone, but most students aren’t thinking broadly about the many people who are impacted by safety violations. Lives and livelihoods are on the line here. At this point, it’s not okay to say you didn’t know or that you’re sorry. If you’re here, it’s a minimum expectation that you know the very basics about distancing and masks. If you’re depending on a poster or a pledge or an authority to tell you the most basic expectations, that may mean that you’re not ready for F&M on-campus yet. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means you may not be ready.”

It seems increasingly clear that within the dorms, that “authority” Shaw referred to is the HA’s.

Junior Ellyn Fritz is the News Editor. Her email is efritz@fandm.edu

Investigative Reporter Daniel Robillard and Editor in Chief Ruby Van Dyk contributed to reporting. Their emails are drobilla@fandm.edu and rvandyk@fandm.edu.

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