A UGA's Perspective: Fostering Community in Dartmouth Dorms

by Jodie L. Neukirch | 10/28/04 5:00am

While I agree with Dan Knecht's argument that collective punishment is not an ideal way to deal with dorm damage (The Dartmouth, "Collective Punishment: Bad Idea," October 20), I severely disagree with his last comments. His concluding paragraph states that he believes the Office of Residential Life should "hold UGAs partially responsible for the activities of their residents. Do not fine them, although that would be more 'just' than fining the whole floor since they are paid to supervise their residents, but encourage them to discuss problems with their residents and devise creative ways to stymie dorm damage."

I am a third-year undergraduate advisor. I have lived and worked in both the River and the Choates, and am now a UGA in Rip-Wood-Smith. There are a few things in Knecht's op-ed that I would like to address, because I feel like they are recurring issues that no one is willing to discuss.

First, I oppose the notion that the amount of fun had in a weekend can be discerned by the amount of dried vomit on the bathroom floor. I know that we've probably all experienced this, but have we really stopped to think about it? I'm all for having a good time, but why is it that we think we have to drink so much that we throw up in order for that to happen? Instead of being upset about being fined, maybe we should look to the real problem -- if you see someone constantly drunk to the point that they are vomiting every weekend, say something. This isn't healthy. And yes, the vast majority of people aren't responsible -- but as a member of the community, you probably know who is. Let someone know, and maybe they can get help (and then you won't be charged for the damages). This is an issue across all the classes -- although Knecht claims the vomiting in his bathroom is probably done by a drunk freshman, he lives in Topliff, which is an upperclass dorm. I think we need to recognize that unhealthy drinking behavior affects people in all years of study.

Second, the whole idea of someone stealing a chair and then leaving it in a stairwell really gives a great example of how we see our dorms. In all-freshman housing, there really is a sense of community. Why is this not true in upperclass dorms? I would challenge everyone, especially we upperclassmen, to stop complaining about not knowing anyone on our floor, or this or that, and do something about it. How hard would it have been to move the chair back to the lounge? If it bothered you, then take action. I know we did when we were freshmen -- what has changed?

Third, the idea that UGAs should be fined for their residents' actions is appalling. We are not your parents. We are here to help you, to try to make the dorms a better place to live, and to try to help our residents be responsible. However, in upperclass dorms that is often difficult. I have had people tell me they don't want a UGA. Another resident told a UGA the only thing she could do is introduce him to hot first-year girls. While we try to know our residents so we can discuss problems, it goes both ways. Our residents should try to know us as well.

And on that note, it is not our job to "supervise" our residents. And personally, I'm happy about it. I think that our system is much better than one in which we would have to supervise people. I know I don't think it would be fun to have a UGA going around and fining people for loud music, having hotpots, drinking in the dorms and such. I doubt that anyone wants to create the environment where a UGA would be able to fine you for talking in the hall at 2 a.m.

I challenge anyone who is unhappy with the system to take action. Be responsible for yourself. If you have ideas about how to make dorm life better, share them with your community director or other people in ORL. And especially to upperclassmen -- make an effort to get to know your UGA. We really are here for you and can be excellent resources (trust me, after two weeks of training, we better be).

As cliched as it sounds, we really do live in communities -- what they look like is up to you. If you don't like it, then help make it what you want it be. I know when I come home to my dorm I consider it coming home. If that's not how you feel, but you want to, please use the resources around you. I think it's about time we all felt responsible for our dorms.

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