DCL: what we know and what we should know
What is DCL?
DCL is the Department of Community Living, or more specifically, the department responsible for residential life on the Brandeis campus. The umbrella of residential life responsibilities includes housing assignments for students living on campus, the hiring and training of Community Advisors (CAs) and Area Coordinators (ACs), the supervision of all residential life programming and the management of all the residential buildings. DCL works closely with Facilities and University Police to make sure students are safe on campus and security devices such as blue lights, card readers and fire safety systems are working properly.
Who works in DCL?
DCL staff includes five central office staff members, nine area coordinators (including three newly hired coordinators) and 73 community advisors.
A Word from the Director
“We care and we want people to realize we care.” –Tim Touchette, director of DCL
Tim Touchette, the director of DCL, has brought a vision to life at Brandeis since he started working here two years ago. Unlike many other departments on campus, DCL affects every student. Whether that student is a first-year living in Massell or a senior choosing to live off campus, communication between that student and DCL is required.
In many cases, the on-campus housing process runs smoothly, and students think about DCL only twice a year—as they wait anxiously for their lottery number and as they refresh the MyHousing page online hoping their desired housing has not been chosen before their turn.
Yet if and when students do find themselves in the DCL office, it is frequently following a situation in which students are not pleased with the department. They feel they have been wronged in some way or another, explained Touchette, who remembers having those exact thoughts when he was a college student.
“I would love for students to recognize that even though we can’t always give everyone exactly what they want because we just can’t that we always try our very, very best to help each and every person that comes in here with their own unique stories,” Touchette said.
With a sincere focus on students, and even more specifically, on student happiness and success on campus, Touchette has worked to ensure that when a student is faced with challenges regarding community living, that student is not only helped to the best of the department’s ability, but is supported emotionally and feels they are cared about.
The goal to make sure each student feels listened to and helped is not simply a verbalized one at DCL but a goal that the entire staff has been working to achieve. While these efforts can be visualized, they exist on a much deeper level than the free candy on desks in the office and a refrigerator full of free drinks.
All staff members, including the student workers at the front desk, are trained to engage with and de-escalate frustrated, and sometimes even endangered students, who enter the office. Rather than have an unproductive and emotional conversation with a yelling student, DCL staff aims to comfort that student prior to any conversation about improving the situation causing issues.
To further improve student life at Brandeis and the student experience with community living, some DCL staff members have attended the Disney Institute, a professional institute that helps organizations and companies change the culture in their workplace. Also, all staff members partook in training over this past summer based on “Be Our Guest,” a book published by Disney on how the company succeeds in customer service, quality service being the main focus.
“It’s been really good for morale and just empowering them [staff members] to feel like they can do something besides the normal stuff they do every day,” Touchette said. Many of the changes made because of the Institute and book reading are seemingly small but effective.
For example, when DCL staff members are at work, they minimize cell phone usage and make a conscious effort to avoid having a cell phone in-hand while working with students.
These efforts are also seen in how DCL staff members prioritize the students. Rather than cut a conversation short to make it to a meeting on time, staff members are encouraged to finish their conversation if they believe they will be able to salvage their meeting after arriving late.
These changes have already had a positive impact on the community, Touchette explained. The positive behavior trickles down through the Head CAs, the CAs, Orientation Leaders and into student life. “One of the tangible ways we can see an increase in this positive energy is … we need to get better at congratulating people and calling out the good, because honestly no one ever calls here to tell us we are doing a great job. They are calling to tell us something awful in their mind has happened.”
Since training, Touchette has seen an increase in the number of handwritten notes and emails staff members and students have received recognizing others for something positive they did. When a group of students were involved in a difficult situation with another student a few weeks ago, those students not only thanked each other when the situation was handled, but a dean got involved and wanted to set up a thank you lunch, said Touchette.
“That kind of stuff we never had the time to do that before, and now that we are kind of being proactive, we have a little bit more time to do stuff like that, which is great. So that’s one example of good stuff that is happening, and I want to keep it going because there is so much bad stuff that happens, but we want to focus on the good stuff.”
As Touchette enters his third academic year at Brandeis, he hopes students realize the DCL staff is at Brandeis for one reason, and that reason is the students, regardless of if DCL is able to meet every student need down to the pinpoint. “We will do whatever we can to make it work and try our best, and I feel that way about everyone who works here.”
Dispelling DCL Myths
In a conversation with Director Tim Touchette, he shared a few common myths about DCL and why they are only myths!
DCL is rolling in money
“I hear this a lot from students, and I’m always perplexed as to why they think that. We don’t get money from room revenue. That goes to the university. We actually have a very small budget, and it’s for professional development and programming,” Touchette said.
Because many of the residential buildings on campus are old and preventative maintenance was not something the university did on a routine schedule in the past, DCL is working to restore the facilities after years of student usage, he explained.
“People in this office work really hard to try to make this campus a nice place to be, a pretty place to be, a place with reasonably accommodating facilities.” Because the DCL team has positive relationships with staff members across campus, the department is able to get things done quickly, but this is not indicative of a large budget, explained Touchette.
“We are very visible—we have a lot of buildings, we have a lot of staff, we are one of the largest staffs on the campus—and so when things happen they are usually visible and people see them right away so they are like, ‘Oh, they are spending money again.’ It’s quite a process, and there are so many people that sit around the table and try to figure out where the best impact for the dollar can be spent and logistics behind the scenes.”
DCL staff leave here because they hate Brandeis
In the field of residential life, the staff are live-in professionals and transition a lot, but that has nothing to do with Brandeis, Touchette explained. “The field in general has about a 90-percent turnover rate at entry level positions because a lot of them [staff members] are trying to get into bigger and better positions in higher education,” Touchette said.
Rather than search for long-term staff members, Touchette has focused on recruiting high-quality professionals looking to stay three, four, five years who will then pursue higher level jobs following their time at Brandeis. Dayshawn Simmons, Area Coordinator for Foster Mods and Charles River, will leave Brandeis next week after working here since Fall 2015.
Simmons hopes to work in a management-level position in higher education after he leaves. When asked if his time at Brandeis prepared him for future opportunities, he responded, “It’s one of the reasons I came to Brandeis.”
“What we try to do is give them [professional staff] the most amazing experience in their time here so that they leave taking the Brandeis name with them,” Touchette said. “It’s a fun place to be at, and I think a lot of our staff learn a ton of stuff while they are here and then when they leave they are like, ‘I really valued that experience,’ and can reflect on it in a way that helps them do better in their next role.
In Focus: Diversity and Inclusion
“As a professional staff, we spent a great deal of time over the summer talking about not only visual diversity, but invisible diversity,” Touchette said. Brandeis not only has a wide range of racial and cultural diversity but diversity in terms of physical and mental abilities as well.
Because DCL staff spends more one-on-one time with students than do other departments on campus, the diversity and inclusion training is more intense than the typical human resources training, explained Touchette.
DCL staff go through both in-house cultural competency training with the Intercultural Center and the Dean’s suite as well as outside developmental training. “It’s an identified area that we need to work better on as far as having conversations with students and bridging gaps between cultural identities or just identities in general,” Touchette said about diversity training.
“The goal of any cultural competency training is to get people to realize that folks are coming to the table with more than what meets the eye and giving people an ability to not rely simply on their own experiences to deal with something, but to be able to think about other cultures and how other cultures interact and engage prior to acting,” Touchette said.
Some of this training included discussions about the Ford Hall protests that occurred on campus last fall and sessions on how to interact most effectively and respectfully with students of varying cultures. Other programming was more light-hearted such as group lessons on the pronunciation of common Chinese first names.
“The cultural competency training just gets you to slow down for a second and think about ‘am I looking at everything here, or am I just looking at it this way because I am this way?’”
In addition to the training, DCL requires multicultural residence hall programing and is attempting to infuse a multi-cultural dimension into everything it does, including hiring new staff members. “One of the new staff members we are hiring has some very specific experiences in race relations and intersectionality,” Touchette said.
Over the course of this year Touchette looks forward to see how the focus on diversity and inclusion will play out within the campus community and residence halls.
In Focus: Sexual Assault Training
“There’s an eagerness to want to eliminate it [sexual assault] by everyone [DCL staff and CAs], but the reality is that that’s an unreachable goal, and I wouldn’t place that responsibility on them,” said Touchette. “We want to get to a place where we are able to change the culture so that people are holding each other accountable … and feeling comfortable reporting things.”
To achieve this goal, DCL provides sexual harassment training for all of its staff, as well as sexual assault prevention training for the CAs. In addition to the training, CAs are all bystander trained and piloted bystander 2.0 for the Rape Crisis Center last year.
Further, DCL has made an effort to streamline how CAs and DCL staff members take in information so victims do not have to repeat their stories more times than necessary, said Touchette. Through work with Director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Sheila McMahon and Survivor Advocate and Education Specialist Julia Rickey, the CAs have been trained to respond to any sexual assault or harassment issue that may arise.
“A lot of our residential staff forget that our CAs are students too and that they really do take the brunt of a lot of different things and it’s unfair for them at times to take that all on so we want to make sure that they feel support too,” said Touchette. “No one wants to have someone come tell them they have been assaulted, but they have the right training to be able to respond appropriately.”
Bios by Albert Reiss, Editor
Associate Director of DCL Sarah Hogan-Crowley has a lot on her plate. Among others, her responsibilities include room selection, room assignments and managing the general operations of the housing process. So whenever you have used the MyHousing program hoping for a Ridgewood, Hogan-Crowley probably had some role in making the housing assignment happen.
Hogan-Crowley is no stranger to Brandeis’ unique campus culture, given that she herself is an alumna. Hogan-Crowley even completed her master’s degree while working in the Dean of Student Life Office.
One question we had to ask her was what dorm Hogan-Crowley would most like to live in. Trying to be a neutral party, she noted that all dorms have “their own personality and great attributes and things that make them special. I love them all!” However, Hogan-Crowley made it clear that Ridgewoods would definitely be off the table because “The way I cook I’d be setting off the smoke detectors every night.” Hogan-Crowley thus would prefer the Castle, because who wouldn’t want to say they have lived in a castle, right?
Lastly, Hogan-Crowley described how she and the rest of the DCL team always try to help solve students’ housing issues. Unfortunately, with limited housing on-campus, sometimes students may not get their preferred housing choice. At the end of the day, Hogan-Crowley strives to “meet everyone’s needs in a fair and consistent manner.”
Another familiar face you might bump into when going to DCL is Scott Berozi. Berozi is currently the Assistant Director for First Year Programs and Orientation. In that capacity he oversees the transition that newcomers to Brandeis make, so everything from OLs to Orientation events went through him.
Berozi has been at Brandeis since July 2013 and in his current position since May 2015. Despite the various issues that may come up at work, the “most rewarding part is getting to work with students that are so passionate, excitable and kind.” So Brandeis students, understand that your perceived “quirks” are seen as signs of passion by the administration.
What most people might not know about Berozi is that as an undergraduate he majored in journalism with “aspirations of being an entertainment journalist.” However, he decided to choose student affairs over show business in order to help students and make a difference on a college campus.
When asked which is his favorite dorm on campus, the ever-popular Village is Berozi’s choice. Among the reasons for his choice are the openness and excellent layout of the residence hall.
Not everything in Berozi’s job is easy, however. According to him, “The hardest part is having to say goodbye when students graduate.” During their stay at Brandeis, many students have formed friendly relationships with him that ultimately end after graduation. As Berozi puts it, “I know graduating is the entire reason why you are all here, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
James Reed brings a wealth of experience to his job at the DCL as Assistant Director. He even briefly lived in the Ridgewood dorms when he first came to Brandeis. Reed oversees Operations & Community Development at Brandeis. In addition to working at Brandeis, he has worked at Brown University and MIT.
The various reasons that brought James to Brandeis include the strong “community, team and students.” Reed joined the DCL team last July.
One of the most important responsibilities that Reed is tasked with overseeing is the CA program. This means making sure the CAs are performing their duties properly as well as overseeing the program’s operations. Reed notes that his favorite part of the CA program is being able to “interact with the CAs.”
We also got a chance to talk with Reed about the issue of diversity on campus. In light of last year’s student demonstrations, such as Ford Hall 2015, calling for greater representation for minority students, Reed noted that, “Almost a quarter of the CA program is made up of students of color.” In addition to “greater representation” for students of color, Reed also described providing more diversity training through the CA program. According to Reed, this training is important in order to promote “culturally competent” CA staff who are comfortable and familiar with helping students of color. Also important in increasing diversity, as Reed said, is to make greater connections to various offices around campus, such as the ISSO and GSC, to coordinate better diversity on campus.
Finally, we asked Reed what his favorite dormitory would be on campus. He said that Ridgewood would definitely be his first choice because of the suite style of living.