This is part 1 of a 2 part series. For Part II, read “Facilitating a Termination Meeting”.
We’ve all thought about those words, “YOU’RE FIRED!” Hopefully we’ve never heard them (or had to use them). And that is important to keep that in mind as you read this article on expectations and termination.
I know that termination is the “thing” that we all probably hate most about careers in student affairs. But in residence life, with large student staffs and high expectations, it will always be something that we will at least need to think about, and when situations occur we need to be able to turn them into learning opportunities.
I think it is important to begin by saying that there is not a magical “step-by-step” termination process. But, I do believe that these situations rest on a few key principals: expectations, trust, teamwork and ethics. Let’s start with the expectations or the foundation… because without expectations, the “art” of fair termination is not possible.
1. Develop a written set of ethical expectations. I would suggest having the central staff develop the first draft of expectations, but then asking RAs for their feedback at some point in the process. You should then include this document in your RA contract and position description, as well as in your RA manual. (Bucknell has 12 points in our ethical expectations document, in brief they are as follows):
a. performing all duties as assigned
b. treating all people with respect
c. confronting problems and being proactive
d. confronting and discouraging harassment
e. maintaining confidentiality
f. establishing a healthy hall environment
g. helping students find channels to solve problems
h. refraining from the illegal use of alcohol, following state law
i. helping to educate other students about alcohol
j. refraining from dating hall members and staff members
k. supporting the office in word and in deed
l. and abiding by all university policies
2. Talk about expectations of the position at RA recruitment efforts, at spring training events (generally) and at fall training.
FALL TRAINING – MOST IMPORTANT PIECE… in 3 steps!
Step 1: .I recommend spending an hour talking about expectations during fall training, during the first “real” day of training (not on a team building day if you do this first). The tone of this session should be serious (in contrast to how a lot of sessions are during training) and practical examples should be used. Some possible examples:
1.If you drink alcohol while on duty, regardless of age, you will be terminated.
2.If you purchase alcohol for underage students, you will be terminated.
3.If you are found violating the alcohol policy, you will be terminated.
4.If you use master keys inappropriately you will be terminated.
◾Why give these practical examples? Because, developmentally our students are still adolescents, they WANT boundaries, so we use this time to define situations for them, and to give them some black and white examples of what is and is not okay. I suggest actually using the words “you will be terminated” – this makes a bold statement.
Step 2: During the fall training week, in staff groups, they should continue with expectations – I recommend having the RAs discuss expectations that they have for themselves, for their staff and for their supervisor. I also suggest having a discussion about what the group perceives as characteristics of a role model. This small group staff atmosphere gives them a chance to ask questions, and solidify more specific staff expectations.
Step 3: Last step in fall training – THE PLEDGE. Last year, for the first time, we developed a pledge that we use during our closing ceremony. The closing ceremony consisted of a slide show, comments and reflections on training, and then the pledge. The pledge was read, and then each staff member signed the leather pledge album as they exited the auditorium. The signing of the pledge was done in complete silence – it took about 15 minutes with 100 staff members – but it was well worth it. The pledge is as follows:
I pledge to contribute to a successful year as an OHRL staff member by investing my time, enthusiasm and energy to provide a safe, supportive and enjoyable environment where Bucknellians can grow and live together as a community of learners. I will support my staff and the ideals we have established as members of the OHRL family.
I honor to:
◾challenge myself as a leader to grow and learn beyond my comfortable limits and raise my standard of excellence;
◾have the courage to serve as an inspiration to others in our community;
◾appreciate and preserve the integrity of my role as an RA/HR/RM or central staff member;
◾have the confidence to make ethical choices and difficult decisions;
◾leave a positive legacy.
The addition of this ceremony and the pledge gave us a chance as a staff to reflect on the training week. It also set the tone for the year, and provided them a chance to be proud of their accomplishments. It was an incredible end to the training week, and in the RA training evaluation the closing ceremony and pledge consistently ranked as one of their favorite activities.
So, you successfully make it through training – and then at some point throughout the academic year, a situation occurs.
This is the first half of our series on RA expectations and termination. In Part two, “Facilitating a Termination Meeting”, we talk about the specific steps that can be followed when dealing with a termination situation.
Submitted by Nicole Loyd, Assistant Director of Housing and Residential Life, Bucknell University