ORL increases UGA compensation

by Anthony Lafontant | 1/22/13 11:00pm

After 12 years of stagnant wages, compensation for undergraduate advisors more than doubled beginning last Fall, according to associate director of residential education Jeffrey DeWitt. All UGAs will receive a $300 raise and a $1,500 credit on their student account toward the SmartChoice5 meal plan, he said.

The College currently employs approximately 100 UGAs per term, excluding Summer, when the number of UGAs depends on the number of residents. The $1,800 raise for each UGA will cost the College roughly $540,000 over the Fall, Winter and Spring terms.

Previously, new UGAs received a $1,000 stipend and returning UGAs received $1,100, according to DeWitt.

The Office of Residential Life has discussed increasing UGA compensation for several years. Students in comparable positions at other Ivy League institutions have generally received higher pay than those at the College, DeWitt said.

"Many UGAs really weren't being paid for the amount of time they were investing into all their duties," first and second floor Wheeler Hall UGA Fermin Liu Ku '15 said.

The increase shows the College's dedication to creating a safe residential environment, he said.

The raise was instituted alongside a new online reporting system for incidents on each floor. The system will allow UGAs to share information about "concerning" resident behavior or risky situations. UGAs have always had this role, but formalizing the process will help to make it easier to report harmful activities, Dewitt said.

"Given that we have a more formal reporting structure now, we felt like we should increase their compensation to account for that," he said.

Second floor Bissell Hall UGA Jacob Hickson '13 said that there seems to be an increase in the number of incidents that hurt the cooperative and supportive nature of the residential community.

"The idea for first-year students is to learn about creating a safe residential community through discussions surrounding issues like diversity and substance abuse," Hickson said. "However, if certain students don't buy into that idea, it can end up being to the detriment of everyone else."

DeWitt said that he wants UGAs to work more closely with their residents.

"We want to focus on one-on-one meetings with residents and ensure that our residents know we are here as an advisor, a resource and a friend," Ku said.

Current UGAs said that the addition of the SmartChoice5 meal plan credit will allow them to eat more frequently with their residents.

"Both the increase in compensation and addition of the meal plan will really ensure that there are no barriers to engaging with students in the dining spaces," Hickson said.

UGAs have taken on new roles as the advising program has matured, DeWitt said. Last Fall, the College implemented a pilot program for students in the Choates called Advising 360, in which UGAs and faculty provide additional advising for floor residents.

"Undergraduate advisors are meant to promote a cooperative community, but they also serve as referral agents connecting students with the resources best suited to assist them," Hickson said.

In addition to their formal responsibilities, UGAs find personal ways to provide support to their residents, according to Ku.

"Last term, I made care packages during rush week just to make sure that whatever happened, students on my floor still believed they had a community that cared about them," Ku said.

**The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the salary was increased this term. It was in fact implemented in the Fall.*