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The Community Directors Have to Go

On Tuesday, an undergraduate asked President Kim if the College’s tortured dormitory situation might be changed to allow students to remain in a “home dorm” for four years if they wished, rather than being shunted by lottery from dorm to dorm each time they return to campus. I have written about this problem here and here.

Kim responded somewhat glibly, as follows (video at 10:39):

I hear very different kinds of responses to that: there are people who really don’t like it, moving so much; there are others who think that it makes them live lightly. You know, they are used to moving. So, I have heard different things at different times…

Live lightly? Let’s forgive our President his salesman-like response; I’ll assume that he has not looked into the matter in a serious way. However, Kim and Provost/Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt then pledged to investigate the question more deeply to see if any financial savings were possible.

To my mind, the decision to alter our housing policy in favor of dorm continuity is entirely justifiable on the merits — it will immensely improve students’ residential experience — but there are real cost savings and revenue gains to be had here, too.

No position in the Dartmouth bureaucracy is more derided by students than that of the nine Community Directors. The College hired them in the last decade to breathe life into dorms that have been socially gutted by the absence of continuity in student living. “Clueless” is the term that I most often hear from undergrads, as they roll their eyes at the thought of being shepherded by these awkward den mothers. If Dartmouth were to change its housing policy to allow continuous dorm living, we wouldn’t need these folks at all. Our students, if left together long enough to form communities, do not have any trouble organizing their own activities.

But back to the financial implications of firing all of the Community Directors: their base salary was $39k a few years ago when the College listed pay on job applications, so you have to assume that they are all making close to $50k by now. Add to that figure medical benefits, pension contributions, and the 12% or so federal and state payroll taxes that go on top of all cash compensation, and these nine folks easily cost the College an out-of-pocket $700,000 each year. Then you can increase that figure by calculating the expense of management and administrative time, computer equipment, tech support, conferences and training. Phew!

In addition, each Community Director is housed in a suite of dorm rooms that would otherwise hold 4-6 undergrads, most of whom would pay for their rooms. With room rates of $6,750 per year, that amounts to lost revenue of $243,000 to $364,500.

Get them off payroll. At the very least, we’d be one million dollars to the better, with only forty-nine million to go to balance the budget — and this change will vastly improve the quality of residential life at the College to boot. Pretty easy decision, no?

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