Restructured compensation plan for Residence Life Student Staff

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SARAH BRICKEY-NGUYEN | AREA COORDINATOR  Smith College plans to revamp and redistribute the current Residence Life compensation plan next year.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SARAH BRICKEY-NGUYEN | AREA COORDINATOR

Smith College plans to revamp and redistribute the current Residence Life compensation plan next year.

Zoya Azhar ’20 | Associate Editor

Every year, Smith students face rising annual tuition fees. To put this into perspective, the traditional undergraduate fee for attending Smith in the 2016-2017 academic year was $68,482; now, two years later, the fee stands at $72,292. This trend has been observed for many years now and is expected to continue in the coming years.

One of the repercussions of the rising costs of room and board is that the Office of Residence Life’s budget for hiring and training Residence Life Student Staff has been spread thin.

The office has prided itself on providing a generous compensation plan for Student Staff members, which are made up of Head Residents (HR), House Community Advisors (HCA), Housing Coordinators (HC) and Apartment Managers (AM). Each residential house typically has an HR and an HCA assigned to it; in total, the office employs 31 HR’s and 32 HCA’s this year. An HR’s annual compensation is equivalent to room and board costs (about $17,266 in 2017-2018), and HCAs and AMs are paid about $4,090 annually.

Though room and board costs have risen, the department has not seen an increase in their budget. This means their static budget has been spread thin, with more and more of it going towards HR compensation and less for other uses, such as professional development opportunities. Additionally, Associate Director of Residence Life Hannah Durrant noted that there was a gap in HR and HCA compensations, but the difference in the job descriptions does not really justify it.

“The AM, the HCA and HR do very similar things, but the pay discrepancy is astronomical. It’s $12,000,” Durrant said.

“If we look at the strategic plan of the institution, as well as our division, there is a significant focus being placed on leadership, how we’re developing leaders and providing new leadership opportunities, how we are providing progressive advancement,”

The department saw this college-wide reassessment as an opportunity to rethink how they pay their student employees, keeping in mind the goals of financial sustainability, student job creation and leadership development for the HR position.

The new structure, which the department unveiled early this semester, sees a dramatic shift from one HR and one HCA per house to two HCAs per house and two HRs per residential area (Green Street, Lower Elm, Upper Elm, Center Campus, East Quad and West Quad). Houses with HCs will remain in place, and the AM’s role remains unchanged. In contrast to the 31 HRs that the department currently hires, there will be 12 HRs for the 2019-2020 school year. The number of HCAs will increase from 32 to 60.

HR compensation will be untethered from room and board costs, and HRs will now be paid about $10,500 annually. As a result, the wage gap between HRs and HCAs has been reduced. Additionally, returning HCAs will see a pay rise as well. Starting pay for HCAs will be $4,090, like before, but those who come back for the second or third year will see a $500 or $1000 increase, respectively, in their annual pay.

Sophian Smith