Sunny Jeon, the former Area Coordinator (AC) of Core 5, who oversaw residents of Bennet Hall, Clark Hall, 200 Church, Malcom X House, and Writer’s Block, has left her position. As a result, two other ACs in the Office of Residential Life (ResLife), Emily Pearson and Cesar Cruz Benitez, have assumed the responsibility of managing Core 5.
Jeon’s departure after one semester at the University follows a series of departures of staff members of color, particularly women of color. According to ResLife, Jeon chose to leave the University for personal reasons. Pearson and Cruz Benitez are now temporarily overseeing Core 5 in addition to the residence halls they already manage. Pearson, who has already been an AC for the Butterfields, has since taken over Clark and Writer’s Block, while Cruz Benitez, the AC for Foss Hill, which encompasses West College, Nicolson, and Hewitt, will now oversee Bennet, 200 Church, and Malcolm X House.
As Pearson and Cruz Benitez explained in a joint email to The Argus, the main job responsibilities of ACs include training, supervising, and evaluating student staff, namely the residential advisors (RAs), community advisors, house managers, and head residents. ACs recruit and select new staff, implementing the residential curriculum—a set of objectives for ResLife student staff and their ACs—and work with students through any issues they may be facing, especially those tied to their residential experiences.
“But [it’s] certainly not limited to that,” Pearson wrote. “[It also includes] working with our colleagues across campus to support students and maintain our spaces, overseeing budgets and purchasing, participating in rotating AC-on-call responsibilities, and so much more.”
ACs also meet with students about room changes, address roommate and housemate conflicts, deal with mental health and emotional concerns, conduct wellness checks, organize judicial conferences concerning the Code of Non-Academic Conduct, and help manage any other struggles residents might experience.
With so many different responsibilities, this role presents several challenges. For example, Pearson and Cruz Benitez referred heavily to the difficulties that arise from facilities issues, such as floods, fires, rodents, power outages and malfunctions, heat and water problems, and other issues.
“The biggest problem with facilities issues is oftentimes they are far out of our control as Area Coordinators,” Pearson wrote. “And we just have to respond to them as best we can, hopefully supporting our student staff and residents as best we can.”
However, the problems students face on a daily basis pose the greatest challenge to ACs like Pearson and Cruz Benitez.
“While the big facilities issues are never fun, they aren’t what we’re dealing with as often.” Pearson wrote. “Rather, we are putting out small fires (metaphorically speaking) every day. I think this is truly the challenge of being an AC, since we have over 3,000 students who all have their own concerns, questions, needs, and wants.”
In spite of these pressures, both Pearson and Cruz Benitez find their jobs rewarding.
“It is fulfilling to be able to help students navigate their college career and hopefully make it a more positive experience,” Pearson wrote. “And it is challenging that most of our work revolves around struggles, issues, and conflicts and less around the triumphs, successes, and celebrations of our students.”
In terms of the residents in Core 5, Pearson and Cruz Benitez have a few goals that they, with the help of the 23 current RAs, are working to achieve. At the heart of these goals is the desire to maintain spaces where students feel safe and supported.
“We want to ensure that all students living in our residences are able to have positive residential experiences, wherein they have the opportunity to build community and learn and grow as individuals alongside one another,” Cruz Benitez wrote. “Emily and I are in continued conversations with each other and our colleagues in the department about what the needs for Core 5 are and any additional support that we may need from them to be able to work towards meeting those needs.”
Director of ResLife Maureen Isleib also pointed out that her office is working hard to support Pearson and Cruz Benitez.
“We have a very strong team of head residents who are supporting Cesar and Emily as they assume additional responsibilities,” Isleib wrote in an email to The Argus.
In regard to filling the position left vacant by Jeon, ResLife notes that the role has been posted and will remain open until they can find a good match for the University.
Not long before Jeon’s resignation, ResLife also saw the departure of former Assistant Director of ResLife Kieran Duffy, former AC Robert Spignesi, and former AC Stephanie Lewis. Pearson, however, mentioned that it is normal to have such turnover for the AC position.
“While Sunny left sooner than we’d hoped for, it is technically an entry-level position (even if it doesn’t always feel like it),” Pearson wrote. “And ACs move on for higher level jobs with more pay or different experiences. We didn’t have as much turnover in the last few years because of COVID, but at most institutions it is normal for someone to stay in this type of role for [around two to four] years.”
As always, ResLife encourages students to seek out their RAs and/or ACs should they have any questions or need additional support.
Gabrielle McIntosh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.