Lipscomb's residence life team introduces RAs to university policy with Behind Closed Doors training session

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Lipscomb University takes the safety and well being of students very seriously.

That is why when a student decides to live on campus, they can guarantee that Lipscomb’s residence life team is doing everything in their power to choose resident assistants to help ensure safety, support social development, encourage academics and spiritual formation, and provide a comfortable space to call home. BCD Tobacco_Medium

Forty two student resident assistants were selected to be student leaders and uphold Lipscomb policy for the 2015-2016 academic year.

As an introduction to this policy, Lipscomb’s residence life team decided to move away from traditional case-study scenarios and toward role-playing ones, intending to help RAs practice how to handle conflict, rather than simply discussing it “in theory.” 

Earlier today, six rooms within Lipscomb’s Elam Hall transformed into different policy violation scenarios to create the “Behind Closed Doors” training session on Aug. 13.

Sam Smith, dean of students, kicked off the morning in Shamblin Theater explaining that although the goal of this training session is to practice social responsibility, the residence life team is also encouraging RAs to keep their residents accountable in following university policy, so residents won’t be a risk to themselves or others.

“We want our RAs to operate with the lens that Lipscomb has created expectations to help students to reflect the Kingdom of God in their lives,” said Smith. “We realize our RAs have a tough tough job, but we want them to be in the trenches with students that are struggling and with a ministry mindset, boldly help to expose darkness and bring it to the light.” BCD Babysitting_Medium

After Smith’s introductory speech, the 42 RAs split into co-ed teams of seven and headed to Elam Hall to complete the “Behind Closed Doors” training session.  

The session covered 12 different policy violations, straight out of Lipscomb’s student handbook, including tobacco, curfew, drugs, fire codes, alcohol, babysitting, sexual misconduct, quiet hours, over-night guests (non-residential guests), pets, anti-hazing and cleanliness.

The residence life team also asked members from Lipscomb’s career development center, veteran services, campus ministry, office of risk management, academic success center, office of financial aid, missions, student activities board, counseling center, student life and campus recreation center to act as “policy violators” and set the stage for the RA’s to understand what policy was violated and how to respond to each scenario.

The designated “policy violators” were strategically chosen to help with the session so that the RAs could establish relationships with these individuals. The individuals from these specific offices will aid the RAs in finding solutions for students that violate policies throughout the course of the year.  

Lipscomb’s six resident hall directors, including Caroline Gallagher, Hannah Meeks, Laurie Sain, Mike Smith, Jonathan Williams and Sam Parnell, were also in each room asking a series of BCD Pregnacy2_mediumquestions to the RAs to better their knowledge and response when handling conflict.

Sam Parnell, the associate dean of student life and head resident of the Village, explained how conflict on a college campus is inevitable, however, Lipscomb is proactively preparing RAs to help students deal with these problems and confront them on the forefront.

“Conflict is going to happen - especially with over 1500 students living on campus,” Parnell said. “Our RAs are the first people that residents will look to, whether that may be for personal or academic reasons, we want them to help students take the next step in realizing that violating a policy may be a symptom to an even bigger problem.”

Lipscomb’s residence life team has been providing RA trainings for over several decades; however, the idea to use role-playing tactics to educate RAs came from two staff members’ pursuit of professional development.

Jonathan Williams, head resident of Sewell Hall, and Hannah Meeks, head resident of Elam Hall, both recently attended the Southeastern Association of Housing Officers (SEAHO) conference where they were given statistics that this type of training is much more effective among universities nation-wide and used that information to better this year’s training session. BCD Pets_Medium

With students coming back to school in less than two weeks, the residence life team is taking full advantage of this time. Recently returning from a three-day retreat that focused on team building and spiritual renewal, the residence life team is using the momentum of the “Behind Closed Doors” training session to continue training on emergency procedures, risk management and intercultural development during Quest Week, Lipscomb’s freshman orientation week, Aug. 18-23.  

“Our RAs are leaders on campus,” said Parnell. “We want to best prepare them for potential challenges that may occur, so they feel confident and able to maintain the safest environment for students pursuing a Christian education.”