First, thank you for all of your questions after my presentation this past week — it meant a lot that you paid attention the whole way through! This blog is going to be a bit about the second half of my presentation — we have identified part of the problem but creating the solution may be complicated.
In most things, accuracy and timeliness are crucial to business success in that the correct things must be available for consumers when they are needed. This is even more essential in crisis response, but often can feel messier. For example, while class selection is essential to be accurate and timely given that students need to know which classes are available, they were able to be corrected on the back end when things went south. In a student situation or in any situation when working with people or major facilities issues, it is important to be as accurate as possible. This may mean double checking or consulting multiple sources to be certain your next steps are 100% correct. The time spent doing this is well worth it, but can be costly. This is where changing systems or consolidating systems would be helpful.
Currently we utilize the following services (that I know of):
- Maxient for our roommate conflicts, conduct history, disability services, and any mental health concerns,
- ScheduleFly & Google Calendar for RA/RD schedules
- StarRez for housing and billing
- Autodesk BIM 360 Ops for work orders and facilities repairs (non-urgent)
- Eagle Apps for class scheduling & student personal information (emergency contacts)
We also use several pagers, phones, and walkie-talkies for the staff who are on call.
The RAs who are on call use the Flip Phones on the left. This has become more and more of an issue for a few reasons. While technically functional, ther service on campus renders them useless if they are in a deadzone. There is also an issue of the technology aging out — one night I had a call from an RA who stated the flip phone was broken and would not turn on. They said they kept holding the button on the side down but nothing was happening (cue my internal reaction of how old am I really????) After they realized the power button was on the inside of the phone on the call/send button, they hung up and I had a quiet moment and a drink.
In an ideal world, a dashboard would exist of any issues a student may be facing, with the ability for anyone to submit a report that could be easily accessed by the on call staff members (faculty, staff, students, grads, etc.) so if someone is failing their classes, going through a roommate conflict, loses their laundry, AND does not show up for their counseling appointments, we can flag their account and respond accordingly. Currently 2 people are responsible for that work alongside a committee of other high-ranked staff members (our Behavioral Emergency Team or BET).
Context is critical when addressing and responding to student behavior and crisis situations. While we consider them and treat them like adults, advocating for their needs may be a new skill they are working on. By knowing their context in a non-intrusive way, it is helpful to identify potential resources even before reaching out.
StarRez is the closest thing that currently exists to this process. The Cloud-based residential community management system has some pre-existing processes that are part of most every higher education process (housing selection, billing, etc.), but offers customization in a way that allows the unique needs of higher education institutions to be fulfilled. This page offers some insight into their offerings, but the system is fairly easy to use and create processes for. We have currently customized the process to match our fairly complex housing selection process, our housing appeals process, and for our leave of absence form. Ideally, we would easily be able to incorporate hiring and scheduling into this system, all work orders, and most resources needed from the student perspective. This would allow for us to create a profile of each student and be able to easily see all the parts of their experience.
Essentially, this is the product that is best suited for the needs of our office, but this may not be the best suited for everyone. Maxient is the premiere conduct software in our field (if that even exists) and holds all of the private information well. Maxient does half of what is needed, in organizing the information related to their student experience, like conduct violations, mental health concerns, or any accomodation-related information.
For the sake of honesty (and a peak into the world of Student Affairs), the issue is the silos. Student Conduct oversees Maxient, Facilities and Housekeeping oversee the Work Order Center, and ResLife oversees StarRez. StarRez is great from a residential life staff member perspective, but not from a facilities perspective or academic perspective. To be able to create a system that would meet all of the needs each party would ask for would be literally millions of dollars. This, believe it or not, does outweigh the cost of the flood from a financial perspective in the eyes of our leadership. While each department is responsible for ensuring our students are successful, the web of systems we have created is indicative of a division that does not communicate our needs well with each other.
So, instead we work within the systems we have and create the processes that are functional but not ideal. I am hopeful with our new leadership in the VPSA role with Dr. Shawna Cooper-Gibson, she is able to see from a bird’s eye view and find ways to make this process more efficient and effective for everyone involved. Fingers crossed she took a Digital Transformation class in her EdD program!