@Scripps

An Open Letter to ResLife

Guest Writer

Scripps ResLife student staff members were exploited by Residential Life and when we fought back for ourselves and our community, Residential Life changed the rules of hiring to try and silence student voices. After a year in which current staff protested our exploitation, when hiring came around over 75% of 32 available positions were filled by students with no previous ResLife experience despite the overwhelming majority reapplying. Upperclassmen with residential life experience were passed over for underclassmen when the pre-requisites for the RC role specially stated that only juniors and seniors could be hired for the role. When asked why students were not rehired, they were told it was due to an overwhelming application pool, but it’s clear that the hiring team was so desperate to not rehire the majority of student staff by their asking of underclassmen who did not apply to fulfill the role. We will not let this retaliation stop us from standing up for our community. It is important for us to note that this letter is not intended to disparage or hurt the incoming residential life staff — it is written to point out the fact that residential life broke contract to retaliate against students and erase institutional memory of student organizing. We ask that those reading this open letter support current Scripps students by signing onto this letter, and if you feel compelled please email deanofstudentsoffice@scrippscollege.edu. Thank you for your support.

As someone who grew up depending on the community for survival, the importance of community influences everything I do. I grew up in a primarily Caribbean neighborhood where community was valued above all else. We relied on one another as a neighborhood with limited resources. We enjoyed each other’s presence because it was the gift that we did have. It was common to ask for help and support others in the community, whether it was making soup for a sick neighbor or babysitting while parents worked. My community looked after those in it. This is how I learned to navigate the world: support those around you as if your and their lives relied on it, because it did.

I came to Scripps with this understanding of community, which is why I pursued a position in Residential Life. The transition into a PWI was daunting, and having upperclassmen with similar backgrounds to look up to gave me the courage to feel like I belonged in this space. Their mentorship gave me a piece of home. When I took on the ResLife role of a Community Coordinator as a junior, my mission was to be that sense of peace for the incoming students with similar experiences to mine and to all Scripps students adapting to a new environment. This mission was my priority, and I can tell my passion created a sense of comfort for the students around me. People trusted me to help them when they needed support.

These were all ideas that I expressed in my interview while re-applying to ResLife this upcoming year. I was rejected from the position. After spending a year building my experience and demonstrating my passion on the ResLife team, the generic rejection email I received from ResLife was shocking to me. Initially, I could not help but wonder what I did wrong. To get a better sense of clarity, I reached out to the Scripps ResLife administration. When I inquired if there was anything I did to deserve my rejection, it was explained to me that the process had been changed to solely focus on interviews. I followed up by asking what was lacking in my interview. I was told my application and interview were “really strong,” but since the applicant pool was exceptionally extensive, that’s how things turned out, and therefore I should not take my rejection personally.

This rejection was more than personal. Does my effort and energy that I pour into this space not matter to this institution? Is my emphasis on using my experience to leverage a safe space for underrepresented students not a priority? I considered this rejection to be disrespectful. I can’t help but feel defeated knowing that my efforts and presence in this place have been overlooked and undervalued, particularly as a student of color who has to work extra hard to be heard in this college.
This rejection was more than personal, it was debilitating. This job provided a safety net for me. I came to Scripps my first year with extremely limited, close to zero, financial support. The financial limitations and stress I experienced hindered my ability to perform academically and limited me socially. The financial amenities from ResLife positions provide an overwhelming, almost too good to be true, sense of financial relief for low-income students like me. Settling into the realization of this financial loss left me immobile. This rejection means that I once again am going to have to experience financial stress and have more restricted opportunities during my senior year at Scripps. The space where I placed my effort and time in an attempt to create an avenue for myself at Scripps has failed me.

This incident goes beyond just me, which is why I am making this statement. Scripps values are being put at risk by the overstepping of new Scripps administrators who are not in touch with students and their needs. My other co-workers who decided to re-apply were also pulled from the ResLife team. The disappointing number of rejection letters and the justification for the rejection to capable and qualified upcoming senior ResLife staff is unacceptable. The contract for RC positions specifically states the position is only offered to upcoming juniors and seniors. However, upcoming underclassmen have been offered the RC position by ResLife staff. This not only breaks the contract of the position, but shows the minimal value ResLife has for their current, upper-class staff who were denied the position due to an “overwhelming application pool.” ResLife should have more compassion for their current staff who have proven their work ethic throughout the most difficult years at Scripps College. ResLife should also understand the onerous responsibilities the RC role entails and should know not to place that pressure on underclassmen unless absolutely unavoidable. The disconnect between ResLife faculty and students was made clear by the interview process itself. In previous years, senior RCs were involved in the hiring process. This year, the interviews were solely conducted by full-time ResLife faculty. This transition is especially concerning since the interview apparently served as the sole determination of who got the position. The role of ResLife severely influences the Scripps student experience. Students who understand the community should continue to have an impact on how this experience is shaped.

I have full faith in my fellow Scripps peers who are entering ResLife positions to provide a safe community for Scripps students. This letter is not aimed to express my concern with who was hired over me, but rather to look out for their well-being. Having students on the ResLife team who are aware, experienced, and willing to advocate for students’ rights is a right that all incoming ResLife student staff should have. It is strangely convenient that qualified and experienced students who have advocated for themselves and their colleagues in the fall of 2021 this school year were not rehired because their interviews were inadequate. Over 75% of the 32 upcoming ResLife student faculty have had no experience working in ResLife. Erasing institutional memory by ousting experienced students is a concern for all staff.

The incoherence in the justification of these new policies can’t help but make my fellow peers and I wonder why these strategic decisions were made. The silencing of the Scripps student voices represents a larger concern of the institution’s forgetting about its students, especially those more susceptible to needing support.

ResLife’s disregard for this student input, disrespect of community knowledge, and withdrawal of support from students is a truly concerning course of action that has serious implications that ignore the college’s history. ResLife alumni have fought to protect the wellbeing of our community and to ensure that future students would never feel the burden of the role at the expense of their own health. The pattern of Scripps forgetting its students should never come close to happening again. My community and I cannot and will not sit by while the legacy of the voices of those who advocated before me get silently swept away.

If this institution truly believes it is progressive, innovative, and equitable, there needs to be awareness and reflection on whether these ideas are either truthfully implemented or simply performative. Scripps College should prioritize the student experience and maintain student-oriented culture and values rather than allow new faculty to overstep the student experience. I will not let myself, my fellow community members, and the legacy of those who fought before me be forgotten.

Image Source: Go Beyond the Brochure via YouTube

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