October 21, 2003

Funding Forces Program Assistant Job Elimination

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After this year, there will no longer be program assistants in residence halls; Campus Life has decided to eliminate the position due to financial constraints. PAs are student employees who oversee and coordinate all the programming in their building and between buildings.

“We talked about it within the staff and there was consensus that we could absorb the PA position,” said Don H. King, director of Community Development. He said that Community Development, like other departments at Cornell, has been undergoing a budget review that requires them to save money by cutting costs.

King explained that the current responsibilities of PAs would be redistributed between residence hall directors and RAs.

“Currently, a program committee is in the process of deliberations on making recommendations on how the restructuring will occur,” he said.

The current PAs and RAs were informed of the changes for next year in a letter sent out by King over the summer. King recieved mixed reactions from students employed by Communtiy Development.

“There was disappointment, but also understanding of why we needed to preserve the RA and RHD positions,” he said.

However, not all student employees thought that the elemination of the PA positoin was a wise decision.

“I think that the PAs are pretty necessary,” said John Chu ’06, a RA in Clara Dickson Hall, “They put all their energy toward programming.”

He explained that RAs have to divide their efforts between programming and policy enforcement. PAs, however, focus mostly on just programming. “They’re the ones responsible for making sure programs are carried out efficiently and planned efficiently,” he said. “They’re on top of every program.”

Aerin Hohensee ’06, a RA in Risley Residential College, agreed.

“The problem with dividing the PA duties is that the information needs to be at one person’s fingertips,” she said. “If the information and duties are scattered, they’ll need more meetings to do get anything done, which is more time.”

Currently, the PAs meet once a week to discuss programming.

“The weekly meeting is how we have cross-programming,” said Dale L. Davis grad, the PA of Risley, referring to programs that involve participants from more than one building. “That’s going to disappear.”

Barry S. LeVine ’04, the PA for the Class of 1918 and Class of 1926 Halls, also agreed that cross-programming will suffer.

“It’ll be much more difficult to cross-program because the RAs in complexes are incredibly insular,” LeVine said. He also pointed out that program assistants do more than just program.

“In my two years as a RA, I felt like PAs were absolutely necessary as a resource and a mentor,” he said.

“They basically are the system that guides the RAs,” Chu agreed, “They’re a good source of help on a peer [basis].”

Ben A. Ortiz, the RHD of Risley, also spoke of PAs as good mentors.

“Dale is the most influential role model this building has ever seen,” Ortiz said of Risley’s PA. “She helped keep me on track. Program assistants are an RHD’s go-to person, their right-hand person.”

Levine also talked about how becoming a PA had been a goal for RAs to achieve through putting in extra effort. Without that position, he’s concerned that current and future RAs will have nothing to strive for. He has a pessimistic view of a future without PAs.

“There’s no incentive, no motivation, no cross-programming, no PA as a resource,” he said.

Hohensee also has doubts about the change.

“[Community Development] says there will be a transition period,” she said. “I think there’ll be a disaster period.”

However, Ortiz pointed out that most other colleges have never had PAs in the residence halls. He also mentioned that next year’s freshmen won’t even know the difference.

“It’s a luxury we can no longer afford,” Ortiz said.

Archived article by Sarah Colby