Gryphons, Office of Residence Life discuss contract discrepancies

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The Gryphon Society logo (Courtesy of the Lehigh University website)

The Gryphon Society logo (Courtesy of the Lehigh University website)

This semester, members of the Gryphon Society have expressed frustrations with the Office of Residence Life regarding discrepancies related to obligations and compensation for their work.

At a Gryphon staff meeting last month, Eden Weinflash, ’17, the head Gryphon of Upper Cents, said the ORL announced Pacing Break would not be included among the compensated breaks listed in their contract. The contract originally stated that staff on duty during Pacing Break, Thanksgiving break and spring break would be compensated.

However, on Monday, just days before Pacing Break weekend, Gryphons were notified that staff staying on campus for the break would indeed receive a $25 stipend per day.

Ashley Lemmons, the interim associate dean of the ORL, said she received feedback from Gryphons who were opposed to having Pacing Break included among the compensated breaks, as it would create scheduling complications for members of the staff.

“(Gryphons were) upset, not about the contractual issues, but about the (way they were executed),” said David Kabrt, ’17, the head Gryphon of Richards. Kabrt said he had not spoken to any Gryphons who were not frustrated with the situation.

Lemmons said when Gryphons signed their contracts in January, they knew break duty would be included in their responsibilities and they would be compensated for it. After conversing with Gryphons last week, the ORL decided to return to their original decision to include Pacing Break in the group of compensated breaks.

“I’m happy to see that they’re listening to us, but somewhat frustrated that it took so long,” Weinflash said. “Obviously, they didn’t do this with malintent, but I think it should be brought up because if we let things like this slide, then who knows what else they could do?”

Kabrt said upon their arrival to campus in August for a pre-orientation training session, Gryphons were made aware there had been major programming changes from the previous year. Namely, they are now held accountable for more hall and community events than they were responsible for in the past.

“I’m sort of conflicted about it, because on the one hand I’m happy that the residents are getting more programming,” Kabrt said. “On the other hand, I’m afraid that with the new requirements, we’re going to be losing Gryphons who are involved with other things on campus, and I don’t think that’s good from a residential perspective.”

Kabrt said he has heard many Gryphons say they are not interested in reapplying because the demands have increased.

Weinflash said Gryphons were expected to plan three community development events, complete two “g-chats” with each resident and plan one hall event last year.

Gryphons must now host several hall events and are required to complete educational programming assigned by the ORL. The goal, Lemmons said, is for Gryphons to spend less time planning events so they can focus on getting to know their residents.

“It definitely takes away from the creativity that I really enjoyed planning events,” Weinflash said. “But I think (the ORL) is trying to make it easier on us.”

Although the number of events has increased, Kabrt said his hall event budget is smaller than it was last year. He is allotted $7 per resident, per semester.

“We have Gryphons who are already afraid they’re running out of money,” Kabrt said. “Our hall budget got cut, and then we’re expected to do more with it. It’s just frustrating for Gryphons.”

Lemmons said more than $90,000 is designated for residential programming. The ORL has pulled money from social programming, such as hall events, to fund the educational programming events.

She said in the past, some Gryphons had not been using all the money budgeted for hall events.

“Personally, I think (Gryphoning) is an amazing opportunity, and we have great experiences with our residents and with the other Gryphons,” said Matt Rothberg, ’18, a Gryphon in Upper Cents. “But I would hate for budget cutting and cutting corners to hurt everything we’ve accomplished.”

Kabrt said there has been a significant amount of staff turnover within the ORL over the past year. He said the ORL had been attempting to implement new changes for the Gryphon staff, revamp the summer and winter Gryphon training sessions, and select and introduce two new assistant directors all at the same time.

“In the summer, we were trying to move so fast that we just didn’t have the ability to get (Gryphons’) input,” Lemmons said. “We are trying to make that change for the rest of this semester and next semester as well.”

Kabrt said he wishes the ORL had asked for Gryphons’ feedback before implementing the new programming.

“It’s not that I don’t think they’re working hard enough or that they don’t care, it’s just that they haven’t had the time,” Kabrt said. “I would have preferred if they stalled the rollout until the spring semester of this year.”

Many of the ORL’s residential initiatives are volunteer-based. Kabrt said Gryphons are less willing to help the department out this semester than in previous semesters.

Lemmons said the ORL will be conducting focus groups with Gryphons this semester, and she hopes to get their feedback and opinions on the programming changes.

“The (ORL) sees the problems with Lehigh, and they really want to do something about it, but maybe they have to take it slower,” Weinflash said. “I want things to change, and I think that things should change, but maybe it has to come from the students first.”

Rothberg said some Gryphons were afraid to speak up in fear of retaliation from the administration. Weinflash said there is always a power dynamic issue, however, and the ORL recognizes Gryphons’ rights to fight for what they want.

“I’ve heard from professional staff, ‘If (Gryphons) don’t like the job, (they) don’t have to do the job,’ and it’s essentially avoiding the issue,” Kabrt said. “I have spoken to a bunch (of Gryphons) who are saying they are not interested in returning, which is a shame because these are very good Gryphons.”

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