I haven’t followed the controversy over the Housing Coordinator (HC)position nearly as closely as I should have. Apologies, loyal readers! The basic story seems to be — corrections and clarifications are welcome in the comments — that the HC position has not worked very well. HCs are students who live in a particular house and are paid by the college to the put on a small number of “events” each semester, things like a Bollywood movie night or apple-picking trip. Related discussions here and here.

Problem seems to be that many HCs don’t do a very good job, both because it is a hard job to do — How do you design events that Williams students (and not just your buddies in the house) want to come to? — and because HCs have little incentive to do it well. Williams students are, after all, famously busy. There is also a question of coordination. What happens when what the HC wants to do has no connection with what house/neighborhood leadership is trying to do?

Doug Schiarra deserves credit for recognizing these problems and trying to fix them. A few years ago, he switched the HC position from something that students applied to first (and then got to pick a room in the house they wanted to live in) to something that only residents of a given house (after the normal room draw) can apply for. This seemed a good move because the central problem with screening HCs is to ensure that only students who really want to put on events should be selected, not just students who really want the benefits of being HCs. If you make the HC position too attractive, then everyone will apply even if they have no intention of doing a good job. And Williams students are smart enough to make themselves appear (especially to someone who might not know them that well) as great HC applicants even if they are not.

This whole dynamic is connected to the JA process. One of the reasons (among many others) that we don’t pay JAs is because doing so would attract the wrong sort of candidates, students who are doing it for the money as opposed to their love of the JA job. The JA process also works because the selection process is so rigorous (multiple hours of interviews) and features so many students with first-hand knowledge of the candidates.

But, with the new Baxter Fellows (replacing the HC position), the College seems to be making a mistake. As described here:

New for the 2007-2008 academic year, Currier will be hiring seven Baxter Fellows! The purpose of the Baxter Fellow program is to have students in each house whose primary role is to foster a sense of community within the Neighborhood and within the individual houses which comprise the Neighborhood in collaboration with their Neighborhood Governance Board (NGB). This is accomplished through local house responsibilities, as well as through involvement with neighborhood-wide activities that address several community-development areas. Baxter Fellows should be creative, flexible, and motivated students who are excited about being involved in their neighborhood community on many levels–from building smaller communities in their houses, to planning large-scale events for the neighborhood.

Sounds peachy-keen, eh? Better to have Baxter Fellows with a direct connection to the neighborhood leadership (since everything is centered around neighborhoods now) than House Coordinators who work for the Office of Campus Life.

The problem is that BFs are to be paid $700 and get first picks (?) for housing. The details are hazy (to me) but this seems like way too good a deal, guaranteed to generate applications from the wrong sort of students and to piss off lots of other students who don’t understand why BFs (including rising sophomores and all their roommates?) get to pick ahead of them. Indeed, if I were a sophomore in a group of 6, I would talk my buddies into all applying, at least one of us would get it (if more than one did, we would draw straws to figure out who would “accept”), and then we get first pick. Sweet!

I also predict tension between the neighborhood leadership and the BFs (see here). Anytime you mix paid and unpaid students positions, you get trouble.

See below for the application and associated e-mails.

Hey all

as you may have read already, the HLC program is ending and the Baxter Fellows is set to replace it next year. It’s an exciting position for anyone interested in campus life and coordinating programs. It also includes a $700 stipend and top rooms in each Spencer dorm-a pretty sweet deal. Attached is the application, which is due this sunday April 8 AT 11:59PM. Email me or Roger (07hjy, 08rl) back with your completed application by then. The Spencer gov board will be reading them next week and you’ll know before room draw.

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Spencer Neighborhood Baxter Fellows Application

New for the 2007-2008 academic year, Spencer will be hiring ten(10) Baxter Fellows! The purpose of the Baxter Fellow program is to have students in each house whose primary role is to foster a sense of community within the Neighborhood and within the individual houses which comprise the Neighborhood in collaboration with their Neighborhood Governance Board (NGB). This is accomplished through local house responsibilities, as well as through involvement with neighborhood-wide activities that address several community-development areas. Baxter Fellows should be creative, flexible, and motivated students who are excited about being involved in their neighborhood community on many levels–from building smaller communities in their houses, to planning large-scale events for the neighborhood.

Name:
Birthday:
SU Box:
Unix:
Major:

Having read the position description, list any relevant experiences
(with student groups, student-faculty committees, summer jobs, etc.)
that would make you a valuable candidate for the position:

Please describe why you would like to be a Baxter Fellow:

List any activities you’ll be involved with next year, and the time commitment involved:

List two references who we can contact (they can be peers, professors, etc):

Each Spencer Baxter Fellow will have the opportunity to direct programming in a specific area (community engagement, diversity/multiculturalism, wellness, faculty events, etc.).
In which goal area would you most like to work:

Community Engagement
Diversity
Wellness
Faculty Events
Life After Williams

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