Without student workers employed by the Office of Residential Living, Georgetown University would not function properly.
Student employees are vital to the maintenance of the residential communities they serve. They distribute packages, issue communal resources like vacuums and umbrellas and provide loaner keys to students who are locked out of their rooms.
Yet, the Office of Residential Living regularly undervalues its employees, particularly by excluding students when making decisions that affect their livelihoods. Administrators must respect student workers by incorporating their input into future Residential Living policies.
Georgetown’s habitual disregard of workplace discontent betrays a view of student employees as unnecessary and replaceable.
Former RHO Manager Daniel Ernst (COL ’18) said Residential Living administrators regularly dismissed his frustrations with sweeping apathy during the last of his three years as an employee of Residential Living.
“The most disheartening line that was uttered with growing frequency was that ‘if you don’t like it we can check your contract.” […] The threat was clear, if you don’t get on board you can leave,” Ernst wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The demoralizing frustration of many RHO employees, including Ernst, intensified because of Residential Living’s inability to clearly communicate standards to its employees.
On March 21, the student employees of the New South RHO received an email from Tori Costa (COL ’18), the acting student manager at the time. Costa informed the students — several of whom recieve Federal Work Study, which provides funding for students with financial need to work part-time jobs — they needed to decrease their working hours.
The email asked employees to respond “naming at least 3 hours worth of shift hours [students] would be willing to cut.” This request created great anxiety for students who rely on their RHO income for meals and other necessities like paying their tuition.
Patrick Killilee, executive director for residential services, claimed the hour cuts were voluntary, not mandatory — directly contradicting the wording of Costa’s email.
“We did not cut any hours. We did however ask for any volunteers to reduce hours,” Killilee wrote in an email to The Hoya. “RHO Managers were asked to identify if there were any overstaffed shifts. If so, students were asked to identify if there were any overstaffed shifts.”
Residential Living’s initial email unfairly put students’ much-needed income in question without first consulting the employees the decision would affect. To better determine and communicate important decisions, administrators must consult student employees.
The disconnect between Residential Living administrators and student employees also created workplace inefficiencies at the beginning of this academic year. Despite an excess of packages, only three student employees were permitted to work at a time. Despite student complaints, administrators did not change this policy. RHO employee Harry Clow (MSB ’19) expressed frustration with his bosses’ unwillingness to listen to students.
“This is an example of the professional staff not really knowing what goes in an RHO or what the beginning of the semester means for the student workers,” Clow wrote in an email to The Hoya.
To easily remedy these problems, Georgetown must change Residential Living operations to include the voices of student workers in decisions.
To minimize the frequency and scope of these situations, Residential Living should officially consult with RHO managers and employees when planning its budget and making decisions that affect the conditions of student workers. These changes must also be clearly explained to student workers by official representatives of Residential Living, not student employees.
Residential Living professionals are generally capable of making decisions on their own, but they must acknowledge the frustrations of their student employees — members of the Georgetown community who have a right to be treated fairly. As the university has demonstrated willingness to incorporate the voices of graduate student workers, it should extend the same willingness to listen to and include the concerns of student workers.
As employees who rely on their income, student workers deserve transparency in decision-making. As members of the Georgetown community, they also deserve to be consulted in decision-making processes to minimize anxiety and confusion.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.