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Row over Row housing

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Some Row house staffers are out in force this week after getting assigned to “standard” rooms rather than the “premium” singles or two-room doubles they believed they were guaranteed when they signed up to run the houses, kitchens and social events of Mayfield Avenue.

As in-house draws got underway this week, staff and residents learned that some residents were assigned premium rooms they thought were set aside for staff. Executive Director of Student Housing Rodger Whitney said the confusion was “not a housing assignments issue,” but rather involved Residential Education (ResEd).

Nate Boswell, an associate dean in ResEd, offered an explanation in an e-mail to The Daily on Tuesday.

“Residential Education is tasked with assigning room types for its student staff members,” Boswell said. “The issue you refer to is that some Row staff members were incorrectly allocated standard rooms instead of premium rooms prior to the running of the draw.  In trying to navigate the changes to the Draw this year — specifically assigning staff members to room type rather than just to a residences as in years past — Residential Education failed to catch the mistake.”

“Consequently the draw was run and students who were placed in Row houses received premium room assignments in place of some staff members,” Boswell continued. “The mistake was only noticed after the results of the housing Draw were made available.”

He said ResEd is working “on a house-by-house basis” to solve the mix-up.

Dean of Residential Education Deborah Golder and ResEd Assistant Director Zac Sargeant did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, student staffers in Row houses were vocal in their reactions on Tuesday.

Some students, like Grove House community manager (CM) Taylor Thibodeaux ’11, assumed that although only master key-carrying staff members — residential assistants (RAs) and CMs — were guaranteed singles, those staff who did not hold master keys would still get priority over residents in room selection.

Other incoming Row house staff said they were surprised and disappointed to find there is no official written policy that guarantees a staff member premium room assignments.

“I’m mostly just bothered that Housing doesn’t consider staff residents,” Thibodeaux said. “They say that residents have protection because of the Draw, but staff members who actually work and make money and do things for their houses don’t have the same protection that residents do. We don’t have room security.”

Many staff members are frustrated at Housing’s lack of response to their complaints. Others don’t know where to direct their grievances.

“I don’t even know who the person to complain to is,” said Maya Perelman ’11, Grove’s incoming kitchen manager (KM), who would not have considered staffing without what she thought was a guaranteed single.

Staff members in the nine Row houses reported to be affected by the confusion are working to alleviate the situation in a number of ways. For instance, CMs received e-mails about writing formal letters to Housing that reflect how the confusion is affecting the Row houses and request that they change premium room assignments to standard ones.

Similarly, Samuel Cohen-Tanugi ’12, next year’s academic theme associate (ATA) at French House, plans to draft a request for compensation via guaranteed tier one priority in the Draw his senior year or an increase in pay.

Another option is to turn to those residents who had priority in the housing lottery and were assigned singles — an alternative that staff members are resorting to because they feel their frustrations are being ignored by administrators.

“Pretty much the only way to do it is to ask the residents that draw into the house if they’d be okay with not accepting a single, which is probably unlikely,” Perelman said.

Cohen-Tanugi, who is the only one affected in his house, as all other staff members in French House have the room assignments they wanted, took a less direct approach and already contacted the student who drew into the house with a premium assignment.

Thibodeaux is worried that the ramifications of this issue will affect community atmosphere at Grove.

“I’m community manager and I’m supposed to be in charge of my community,” she said. “But it’s going to be animosity right away. In the house people are not getting rooms they expected. It’s just very upsetting and I wish that Housing would do something more than just saying ‘just deal with it.’”

Boswell added that ResEd is “extremely distressed at the hardship this error has placed on its student staff members and can only ask for flexibility and understanding from its affected staff as we parse through solutions.”

He noted that the ResEd office is looking at several potential ways to address the issue, but that those solutions would have to wait to be coordinated both through Housing and his office before being implemented.

Eric Messinger contributed to this report.