Standardization of House Fellows

Some University of Wisconsin-Madison students have recently questioned the standardization of house fellow job duties and practices, due to a lack of useful house fellow training.

According to the UW-Madison House Fellow handbook, house fellows must follow a precise set of rules and procedures when confronting problems with residents, such as when writing up residents for drinking violations.

However, some UW-Madison house fellows and UW Housing residents believe not all House Fellows follow the same exact procedures while handling their job. Many house fellows agree that one of the reasons they have different policies with their residents is due to the lack of adequate training before they start their job.

Smith Hall House Fellow Danielle Laurent says that each house fellow confronts his or her residents in different manners involving problem solving and housing violation write-ups.

“Yes, many house fellows won’t write up their own residents or any residents at all, some are sticklers for the rules and write up even the littlest thing, and some are in the middle,” says Laurent.

In addition, Kronshage Residence Hall’s resident Dan Corcoran says some house fellows are more lenient than others.

“Some house fellows seem to be more accepting of the drinking nature of Madison are more likely to let suspicious activities go where others seem to be out to bust residents,” he says.

Another housing resident, Haley Frieler, says some house fellows are too strict with certain residents and not strict with others.

“One house fellow will always yell at me or write me up simply for talking too loud 15 minutes after quiet hours begin,” says Frieler. “But, my neighbors can somehow be up until 4 a.m. with their door open laughing and that is okay.”

According to University Housing, house fellows act as role models to their residents, by helping their residents with problems throughout the year. They have to make good decisions to set examples for their residents because the way a house fellow acts affects how their residents behave, according to the college advice website, CollegeView.

In addition, CollegeView says that house fellows need to be stable for their residents because it is a strange time for new freshmen transitioning to college. Thus, they should not bend rules for certain residents because they need to treat the all of the same violations equally.

Some house fellows believe with a lack of adequate training, especially centralized training, they all learn different techniques when confronting problems with their residents.

House fellows go through a two-week training program before they start their position. It covers coordinating events, working with others, how to deal with crises and housing policies, according to Dejope Hall House Fellow Elisha Smith.

House Fellow Laurent says UW Housing does not train house fellows effectively because the training focuses too much on finding themselves and not the basics of the job.

“We were never really told, this is how you do duty, this is how you work the desk, these are the different types of events you’re supposed to have,” says Laurent. “So we were all of a sudden thrown into the school year and all these things are expected of us and no one knows how to do them.”

She also says UW Housing gave them a house fellow training guide, but most of the information is outdated and not useful.

However, UW Housing employees say they have done a good job coordinating and executing the training process.

Resident Life Coordinator Raymond Neal is in charge of the House Fellows in Smith Hall. He says the program is carefully constructed in the two-week period for future house fellows to understand how to become successful in their job.

“The training exposes them to resources for things like desk work and then there’s the more important pieces of getting ready to build relationships with students,” Neal says.

Moreover, Area Coordinator Stephanie Briggs says the training is very effective and intensive, combining in-unit specific to their dorm training and training with all of UW-Madison house fellows.

However, Smith Hall House Fellow WyLisa McIntosh had a different experience than most house fellows because she started her position spring semester, halfway through the 2012 to 2013 school year. She says she gets help from other house fellows to understand the job because she feels lost at times due to the lack of job preparation.

“There was [a] weeklong winter training but that was more geared to community building because [the other house fellows] had already been through but it wasn’t as helpful as I wish it would have been,” McIntosh says.

Other house fellows believe that training is effective, such as Dejope’s Smith. He says they went through thorough training and conflict scenarios with residents, so they were adequately trained. Although he asked for the advice of second year house fellows, he says he needed their support only to reduce his anxiety and the training program was enough.

Additionally, Smith Hall House Fellow Aaron Cahn says, “The training gives you the tools to think on the fly and solve problems.”

Both house fellows and housing employees say some type of change in training would help the house fellow system. In fact, Briggs says UW Housing is thinking of some changes to training next year so house fellows from across the campus can learn the same techniques.

“We’ve been talking and advocating for doing more of an ongoing centralized training,” says Briggs. “Regardless of where a house fellow is fulfilling his or her role, they need to be able to be competent in similar areas.”

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