VA speaks up about frustration over on-call changes

Viking Advisers (VAs) do not have easy jobs. From making bulletin boards every month to engaging with residents to taking on-call shifts, they put in an incredible amount of work to keep the resident communities running in the best possible shape. This year, changes to Campus Life have also created changes in the roles and responsibilities of VAs. The most extreme change to the role this year is Campus Life’s decision to split the residence hall teams.

In the past, VA responsibilities were combined between halls. Granskou and East halls were combined to make team “Greast” Solberg and Bergsaker were joined to make “Solbergsaker” and Stavig and Tuve together made “Stuve.” With Bergsaker out of commission this year, Campus Life decided to split hall teams, except for Granskou and East. While there are advantages to this splitting of on-call responsibilities, some challenges have become apparent.

As a VA in Stavig, I’m experiencing these firsthand this semester. Because each building has a different number of VAs in it, the hours they are expected to work are unique to each building. Each hall will have to allocate a different number of on-call shifts to each VA to make sure every evening is covered.

Greast’s team has a combined total of 11 VAs working together to split on-call shifts. With 16 weeks in the semester counting breaks and finals week, each VA between Granskou and East will theoretically take around 15 on-call shifts for this semester. With eight of us in Stavig, we each have to take around 20 shifts for the semester, and in Tuve and Solberg, distributing shifts between only six VAs will require each person to take around 24 shifts.

Twenty-four on call shifts may not seem like too much to handle for a semester. However, when it comes to scheduling, many of the students who choose to be VAs are already heavily involved in other organizations and clubs on campus. Trying to assign someone to every single evening with two students being on call on weekends becomes  very difficult.

Student athletes, Augustana Student Association (ASA) representatives, club presidents and honor students all make up the VA team. Despite knowing how much work our job was going to be on top of our other responsibilities, we still wanted to dedicate ourselves to the role and be a part of Campus Life. From what I have heard from past VAs, scheduling on-call shifts has always been difficult, making it almost impossible to accommodate everyone’s schedules and activities. Now I know firsthand just how difficult it can be to find even 19 nights that I can completely dedicate myself to being available in the hall.

Regardless of where they live, how many nights they are on call or how many residents they oversee, each VA receives the same payment for their work. This payment is given in the form of free housing and available funds to use for floor events and general necessities in the hall.

We are all essentially doing the same job, but a new question that arises from the breaking-up of teams. How is fairness affected by the split? A 10-shift difference between Greast’s VAs and either Solberg or Tuve’s VAs might merit a difference in pay.  This is something that should  possibly be considered going forward if the split system is to continue.

Change is by no means inherently bad, and there have been several niceties that have come with this split. In the past, teams had to go on rounds between buildings while on call, which made rounds take a lot longer than they do now. In addition, having desk hours in only one hall gives us the opportunity to get to know students better because we are directly interacting with the residents of our building.

One of the greatest benefits to this split, in my opinion, is that VAs no longer need to worry about being available, often within a minute’s notice, to students in a hall other than their own. Now, with this split, there are more resources available to students at any given time, which is a huge advantage over the previous model.

Being a VA is a lot of work, and it can be tough. However, witnessing people flourish and getting to build relationships within our own teams and with the people in our hall is completely worth it.