The community advisor program at the College has come under a lot of scrutiny lately. There is a lot of turnover within the program from semester to semester, and even within each semester. It hires community advisors, who are responsible for fostering a positive environment within the residence halls. The hours each week vary, based on whether or not the advisors are on duty or have to resolve residential issues.
Community advisors (CAs) are paid $5,000 pre-tax for the duration of the year if they complete both semesters and JanPlan. CAs say that they are underpaid, with one anonymous source saying, “There is no amount that they could have paid me to make me feel comfortable or even able to deal with and treat substance abuse like they asked me to. After sharing my position with other CAs it is my understanding that the majority of them feel a similar way.”
The excessive work is even more untenable given that the pay is so low. While other schools cover room and board, the College does not. The duties required of CAs are comparable to bigger schools that pay their residential advisors drastically more.
The way in which students were paid was changed between orientation and the start of the job. Communication was unclear regarding the way in which they were paid and how much per paycheck. People were getting paid at different times, with different amounts, and some didn’t even get paid until October, after returning to campus for their job in August. It goes without saying that people need to be paid at regular intervals in order to support themselves, as well as receive communication from employers about when they are to be paid. Some described being compensated fairly for the work they were doing, but the lack of communication was stressful and annoying at times.
CAs undergo a training program each semester and it is described as long, redundant, and unnecessary. One student said if they could change one thing about the program, they would change how the training is structured. The training ranges from 30-40 hours a week for two weeks in August, and one CA said that it felt as though they were repetitive, and only sought to fill up space in the day. This source said that people regularly slept through or skipped sessions and were not reprimanded, which left those fully participating feeling as though the process was unfair and lacked accountability.
Another student expressed how they were expected to deal with issues of substance use with little support from the school administration. Another student told me that they were told that they had to support residents with Title IX allegations and were not given the support to protect themselves. When asked to engage in a dialogue about the changing rules for duty, students were shut down and felt like they couldn’t even talk with Campus Life without somebody getting upset with them. Overall, students do not feel supported by Campus Life.
When applying for the job in the spring of 2022, the job agreement was vague about the amount of time spent on duty each semester; however, during the interview, they told potential CAs that they would complete duty thrice during the semester. Duty is when CAs are required to stay up and complete rounds on Friday and Saturday nights, making sure that the campus is safe. They stay up until 1 a.m. and then are required to have their phone on and answer any calls. When CAs returned for the fall 2022 semester, they were told they had to complete duty five to six times throughout the semester. This was nearly double what was previously communicated, and left people feeling blindsided and not able to advocate for themselves.
When one student was asked about the positives of the job, they told me that it was nice to receive a single room and meet new people. This hardly seems worth it with all the downsides of the job. The CA program at Colby has a hard time retaining students, with multiple people quitting during the semester, and an extreme amount of turnover from semester to semester. The pay is not enough to live on, which makes the downsides to the job even more difficult to get past. There were positives that people described as well. They have found community, and everyone’s experience is different with their residents. It can make or break the experience because those who expressed that they had issues repeatedly said they did not get support in helping residents or protecting themselves and their health. Overall, the key to improving the system is opening up a dialogue where CAs feel respected no matter what they’re going through and allowing for frequent and honest communication regarding important matters.
~ Hannah Perfetti `25