CF Burnout

Emma Seppelt – Staff Writer

As all of Gustavus tries to navigate this “new normal,” no part of campus is left unaffected, including the Residential Life Office. Being a CF during COVID comes with a new set of challenges, and many student staff in the Residential Life office have reported feelings of burnout, dissatisfaction, and mistreatment from the Residential Life office. Weekly staff interviewed a number of CFs, both former and current, about their experiences in the job.
For the safety and security of the students interviewed, all sources within this article have elected to stay anonymous. Each CF interviewed expressed genuine concern about the safety of their job in light of the information they chose to share with the Weekly, and several CFs declined to be interviewed for the same issue. For these reasons, the Weekly deemed all sources anonymity essential. According to Director of Residential Life Anthony Bettendorf, there is “no current policy stating that CFs would be terminated or punished for speaking negatively about their experience”.
Awful. Stressful. Disconnecting. Frustrating. Confusing. When asked about their experiences as a CF, these are the words that CFs used to describe their time on the job. While all the CFs interviewed reported enjoying their time spent with other students and residents, this aspect of the job seemed to be the only bright light that CFs could share. As one CF reported, “I really liked supporting the residents– I think really the residents were the only reason I was in it, and that I stayed as long as I did. But would I do it again? Absolutely not”.
Another shared that “planning stuff out and meeting with the residents is kind of fun because you get to meet new people . . . [but when] dealing with the Residence Life Office, nothing makes sense.” All CFs interviewed reported some kind of disconnect between Residential Life professional staff and the CFs.
According to Bettendorf, a recent internal survey conducted by the Residential Life office reflects a generally positive view of the job. (The Weekly was not given a comprehensive copy of the survey so were unable to compare this feedback to the information gained from our interviews). However, all of the CFs interviewed reflected some level of disconnect between student and professional staff. It is also generally well-known across campus that CFs speak poorly of Residential Life outside of the office.
A phrase shared, unprompted, by every CF interviewed was one they were reportedly taught in training: that they are a “human first, student second and CF third.” Immediately following this, CFs would report that, “That was so inaccurate . . . It doesn’t feel like that all the time . . . They simply do not act like that . . . They just didn’t follow through with that.”
“When it comes down to it, we’re always a CF first and only.” While each story was unique, each CF shared stories or experiences that reflected a reported lack of respect from the Residential Life office regarding students’ time outside of the job, as well as their well-being. “That constant stress of like being watched over and being bombarded with emails and requirements was just so so much . . . When I say that like Res Life is always watching over you with a magnifying glass, it’s so true,” one CF said.
Another CF expressed that they felt that support from Res Life was “never consistent.” The general consensus among CFs interviewed was that expectations were exceedingly high and unrealistic. “My experience with the pro staff was awful. Awful awful awful. I think the pro staff genuinely do not understand what students do,” said one CF.
A major factor in these feelings of burnout and overwork by CFs was reportedly caused by the barrage of COVID regulation work and enforcement that CFs were tasked with in residence halls. Comparing their experiences on the job pre-COVID, many CFs expressed that they suddenly felt like “police” or “guards” in Res halls. Many students interviewed said that “the COVID regulations on top of everything else that is our duty” pushed their workload over the top.
Much of the reason for this is the pressure for CFs to be “on” at all times. Multiple CFs shared they felt they were unable to function in their own building and own hall, as they were constantly required to be on the lookout for and report any COVID mandate violations. They could not simply walk to the printer or laundry room without having to be on the job. Typically, CFs are held to a certain number of duty hours. In the wake of COVID, CFs reported that they were essentially on duty 24/7.
For this reason, one of the largest and most passionate issues for the CFs was compensation. Prior to 2019, CFs were given free housing. This system was changed due to budgetary issues, and currently CFs have only about half of their housing covered. When asked if they felt they were properly compensated for the duties they were performing, many CFs laughed or scoffed. “I essentially serve as a crisis counselor, I put on events, I do duty rounds. At the bare minimum– cover our full housing,” one CF said.
When asked about their compensation, one CF said, “Compensated? Compensated no. I haven’t done the math myself, but someone did the math a few years ago and hour by hour just for duty shifts we are the worst paid job on campus.” In Bettendorf’s opinion, CFs compensation was fair and adequate. “Our compensation aligns with many of our peer institutions [in the MIAC],” Betrendorf said.
Each CF lamented the fact that the environment and job of the Collegiate Fellow position was not more feasible, as they all had a real desire to serve their community and help residents. “I want it to be healthier for CFs . . . but we are often asked to do a lot of things that make our lives as students worse,” said a CF. When asked if they felt that other CFs, former or current, felt similarly to them, each student interviewed agreed wholeheartedly. “We feel completely alienated,” said one CF.
When asked to comment on the things CFs shared, the Residence Life office disputed such a working environment or CF experience. “We try to have focused and honest conversations about where our staff are spending their time, and how we can support our staff in finding the right balance for them,”Bettendorf said.
Many of the CFs interviewed felt very similarly, expressing that they felt Residence Life does not do enough to support their staff. As one CF reported, “Waking up every day and wanting to quit is not a sign of a good working environment.”

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