The rapidly evolving nature of technology—and students’ increasing comfort with it—has prompted a steady evolution in the role of the residential computer coordinator (RCC) within the University’s residential communities, as the position’s responsibilities and its compensation continue to diverge.
The RCC position was first created in the 1987-88 academic year to maintain residential computer clusters and provide students with rudimentary technical education. An initial group of 18 RCCs has since grown to over 100 today, even as the improvement and automation of online connection capabilities have prompted many RCCs—who enjoy significantly larger salaries than non-resident assistant (RA) staffing peers—to assume different roles within the dorm community.
For students applying for residential staff positions, the recognition that the perks of the RCC position may exceed those of other dorm staff is clear. With quarterly salaries as high as $2,418 in some freshman dorms, along with compensation for teaching introductory computer science classes CS1C and CS2C, an RCC can earn over $7000 in an academic year, a total much higher than a resident tutor, who earns $4500 per academic year, or a peer health educator (PHE), who earns $1000 per academic year.
A wireless ‘game-changer’
Sherwin Smith, Residential Computing consulting services manager, emphasized the impact of technical innovation on RCCs’ workload.
“A big turning point was the ability to register your devices over the wireless network…that was a game-changer,” Sherwin said. “Prior to that, you had to be plugged into the wall, and nobody brings Ethernet cables and there’s only two plugs per room. The RCCs would pull out a 16-port switch into the lounge on frosh arrival day.”
The 2003 introduction of automated in-room network connections, enabling direct registration and automatic processing of connection requests, was a similar game-changer, reducing the average processing time for a connection from over 9 hours to 15 seconds.
Such significant shifts in workload diminished the RCC’s role and prompted its ultimate evolution with a new set of priorities, according to Smith.
“One of the big shifts was building the RCC position into a full staff position…RCCs are first and foremost part of house staff,” he said.
Geoff Baker and Patti Hanlon-Baker, who have been resident fellows in Larkin for the past six years, shared a similar outlook on their view of the RCC’s role within their dorm.
“We have always viewed the RCC as an integrated part of the staff, present at every staff meeting, with equal decision making [abilities],” Geoff Baker said.
As RCCs became more integrated into dorm-staff responsibilities and as connecting to the University network became increasingly simple, RCCs have instead applied their technical skills toward promoting digital literacy and technological abilities among their peers.
“[Student Computing] is rolling out an educational component where the RCC becomes more of a technology educator,” Smith said. “We encourage RCCs to be up on technological innovations.”
Training for the job
Apart from setting up printers, teaching introductory CS classes and guiding freshmen through the network registration process, RCCs have found that the job that they are being paid for does not necessarily correspond to the traditional RCC job description.
“The most common thing that RCCs will end up doing is basically compensate when the automated systems that are in place fail,” said Omar Diab ’14, a Suites RCC. “And that doesn’t happen so frequently to warrant the amount of training…the way the role is described does not reflect that work that ends up being done.”
Other RCCs expressed similar discontent with the training program.
“RCC training is one of the things that is holding the program back,” said Reid Watson ’14, a Roble RCC “It’s still focused on the raw technical side of things. It would do well to change the role from raw technical aid to educator.”
“When the RCC [role] was first invented, getting a computer connected to the network was a monumental effort,” Watson said “You had to know [operating system] UNIX, you had to know [Secure Shell], just to get someone on the internet…that is definitely no longer critical.”
While RCCs often supplement technical work with more dorm programming and non-required responsibilities, they are careful not to encroach on other staff members’ responsibilities.
“A lot of non-RAs purposely scale back what we do [on non-required dorm programming] so we don’t overwork ourselves,” said Ruben Pierre-Antoine ’14, Larkin RCC. “The RAs cannot do our job, so if we go and plan a bunch of events and do a bunch of RA things, it alleviates a lot [of responsibility] from the RAs but they in turn cannot tutor or fix your computer.”
As the RCC role’s responsibilities continue to fluctuate, the issue of determining appropriate compensation is complicated. The disparity in salaries between staff roles appears to reflect historical responsibilities rather than current ones. According to Dean of Residential Education Deborah Golder, an 18-month study on housing staff pay discrepancy will be concluded this school year.