Grinnell students must say goodbye to a truly beloved campus feature due to budget pressures. This time, Grinnell loses more than a few hours at the Grille or some money for study breaks. Instead, it is former RLC Kim Hinds-Brush, Associate Director of Residence Life and one of the most prominent figures at Grinnell. Student Affairs is not renewing her contract, and instead will be hiring another Resident Life Coordinator (RLC) for North Campus.
“We’ve been short this year on RLCs and felt that. So the plan is to move back to six RLCs which will cover all areas fully,” said Director of Residence Life and Orientation Andrea Conner.
By cutting Hinds-Brush’s position, which was created last year, Student Affairs can pay a new RLC, as well as cover Smounker RLC Michael Hunt’s salary. He was previously paid though the Lily Intern by the Center for Religious Studies and Social Justice (CRSSJ), which expires at the end of this year.
Students in Smounker said it was difficult to have Hunt split his time between his RLC duties and the CRSSJ, according to evaluations they completed last year. Canada and Clangrala also suffered from the lack of RLCs, according to the evaluations.
Katie Lau, Assistant Director of Residence Life and Orientation, manages most of north campus with along with the aid of PJ Mahaffey ’11, Senior Student Advisor. Mahaffey’s position was created this year to deal with the gap left in Clangrala, because Lau lives in Canada. He keeps inventory, distributed room keys and handles the trunk room. The Scarlet and Black reported on his appointment in the September 5th issue in 2009.
Even with Mahaffey’s help, two clusters is too much for one paid employee to manage, according to Conner.
“Having one staff member oversee multiple clusters, it makes me worried that there is some student in crisis that we aren’t aware of,” Conner said.
Student Affairs discussed at least three or four possible constructions of the coordinator and administrative positions, and could not find funding to cover all of the coordinator positions along with Hinds-Brush’s position.
“In order to retain someone with Kim’s experience and leadership, you’re going to want to promote her and have a salary that’s commissary with that,” Dean of Students Travis Greene said, “and Kim, rightfully so, is getting paid at a certain level that is worthy of her years of experience and dedication and years of service and loyalty but that means we weren’t able to have certain dollars to fill for that Clangrala RLC.”
As a result of mass turnover in Student Affairs over the past three years, when Hinds-Brush leaves at the end of this semester, senior students here will have spent more time at Grinnell than anyone in Residence Life. In fact, Hinds-Brush was promoted in part to introduce the new RLCs and Conner, to Grinnell culture.
“We had a lot of transitions going on, so we checked with Kim to see if she was interested in another leadership position,” Greene said.
The transitions included a new Dean of Students, Greene, a new Director of Student Affairs, Conner, and a new Vice President of Student Affairs, Houston Dougharty, as well as four new RLCs, Dan Hirsch, Michael Hunt, Eric Vos and Rachel Wike since 2006.
“We’re going to be missing out not just on the knowledge she provides but the experience she’s had with students,” said SGA President Harry Krejsa ’10. “As much as she’s a source of institutional memory, she’s also a counselor for a lot of the organizations she works for.”
Hinds-Brush advised Student Government Association, Lyle’s Pub, Bob’s Underground and the Mock Trial program, along with monitoring alcohol contracts, determining fees for residence halls and assessing residence life on campus.
“She’s very focused on what needs to get done,” Jon Ismail ’12 said of Hinds-Brush. “That type of leadership in terms of interacting with students and having that kind of rapport, that’s not the type of void that will be easily filled.”
Conner will pick up some of the responsibilities, and the RLCs will cover the rest. However, they do not have the same level of experience that Hinds-Brush has, according to Conner. “She very competently accomplishes a lot of projects in her offices that are now going to be divvied out to entry-level people.”
Students admired Hinds-Brush ability to treat her residents as adults, while watching over them at the same time. “She makes sure that everyone’s safe, but she’s also reasonable in understanding what everyone’s going to do. They’re going to lose the insider’s view on what student life is like,” Loosehead resident Ashur Bratt ’12 said. He described her motherly instinct, and the care she showed for him and his friend last year during finals week.
SGA expressed Hinds-Brush’s importance to the College in the letter they posted on the popular cyber forum GrinnellPlans. “While significant administrative changes have shifted around her, Kim has remained grounded as a well-known and thoroughly-trusted advocate for students and is without a doubt one of the most respected and admired public figures on campus.” Krejsa, Vice President of Academic Affairs Joanna DeMars and Vice President of Student Affairs Ben Offenberg wrote in the letter.
Krejsa wanted the letter to stress to Student Affairs, Hinds-Brush’s importance on campus. , “we did make clear to [Student Affairs] that we did strongly believe that Kim’s retention needed to be a budget priority.”
Hinds-Brush began her job search at different institutions across the country, including positions for Director of Residence Life. Considering the two promotions she received in the past five years, administrators are hopeful that she will land in a good spot.
“I would not be surprised at all if Kim were to become a Director at another institution,” Greene said.