Most people that have attended college have a clear memory of how they felt about their residential advisers. As one of the first people they meet in the college dorms, they can either make or break the initial impression of college for freshmen. Residence staff (Resstaff) is an important institution at the University of Michigan dedicated to the well-being and safety of students living in the residence halls. As a Resstaff member myself, I try to keep these things in mind when I interact with the students that I look after. At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that new students are safe and feel welcomed and cared for. In this blog post, I will establish correlations between what we have learned in our Political Science 101 course and Resstaff as an institution.
Resstaff, like any other institution or organization, has rules that it sternly upholds. In our Political Science 101 class, we read a couple key chapters in “Leviathan” by Thomas Hobbes that mention the logic of these rules. For instance, Hobbes argues that it is possible to preserve a certain level of peace ONLY when all men lay down some of their rights. He claims that the renouncing of certain rights transfers benefits to other individuals and the group as a whole. For example, Resstaff’s primary contract is called Community Living At Michigan (CLAM) and its policies state that all residents must respect quiet hours (specific times starting at night and ending in the morning). Although all of my residents have the right to listen to loud music and talk among each other, they must compromise this right, to a certain degree, at assigned times in the day. It is to ensure that everyone can get proper rest in a serene environment. Hobbes coins this mutual transferring of right as a “contract”. Another right that residents must lay down, according to the CLAM contract, is their right to privacy (under special circumstances). Hall Directors and Housing Security officers are authorized to enter and search dorm rooms if and when there is a potential emergency. These and many other rules and regulations that Resstaff enforces are detailed in the CLAM.
Another important value that Resstaff holds is respect for authority. We as residential advisers need to stand firm in our positions and enforce rules laid out in the CLAM. In our course reading of “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli, similarly held ideals are brought to light. Machiavelli suggests in his writing that being feared is better than being loved (for an authoritative figure). The reason behind this is because being feared preserves authority through consequences and punishments while being loved does not necessarily do so. University Housing, the branch that Resstaff is affiliated, emphasizes strictness and professionalism over praise and popularity. Even though our natural tendency as residential advisers is to want to be liked by our residents, we sometimes have to make decisions that compromise that. If we allow residents to violate the rules for the sake of being liked, then we are not properly executing our job.
In summary, Resstaff is an essential institution at the University of Michigan. Its goals are to promote community building, social justice and a safe environment for all. Its values of transferred rights and respect for authority directly correlate to our Political Science course readings of “Leviathan” by Thomas Hobbes and “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli, respectively. As a current residential adviser, I would highly advise you to apply for Resstaff if any of you have a passion for building community, promoting inclusiveness, and supporting safer college environments.