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Interrogating the University, One Archive (Entry) at a Time: The Daily Life and Research of the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) Higher Education.

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Presentation on theme: "Interrogating the University, One Archive (Entry) at a Time: The Daily Life and Research of the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) Higher Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Interrogating the University, One Archive (Entry) at a Time: The Daily Life and Research of the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) Higher Education Collaborative (HEC) March 12, Nancy Abelmann Gina Bessa Priscilla Fortier

2 EUI’s Mission to treat students as knowledge producers to preserve student research for future students and others to create a way for students to play an active role in the university

3 Preserving Student Knowledge Archives – Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS) EUI Community Page in IDEALS

4 Research Technologies Moodle – Student Research Database Research Page EUI MetaCourse MetaMoodle

5 EUI Infrastructure: Research Support Umbrella IRB Clearance Faculty Development Faculty Seminar Program

6 Request for Proposals Online at EUI Website Due on April 1, 2008

7 EUI Research…Day by Day Rachael Levine Anthropology 411 Methods for Sociocultural Anthropology A Break in the Chain: A Look at Communication between Resident Advisors the Resident Life Employees Above Them

8 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain *ABOUT THE AUTHOR... I became interested in the topic of my research after first working with University Housing as an Office Assistant for a Resident Director (RD) during my sophomore year. I became a Resident Advisor (RA) my sophomore year, as well, and continued in the position through my junior year... The further I got involved in this department, the more frustration I saw amongst the RAs, and at times the RDs, in regards to policy making and a lack of easy communication with the higher administration. Given my background observations and experiences, I decided to address the issues through this research project. *About the Author

9 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain *ABOUT THE AUTHOR “Inclusiveness Statement” from University Housing Guiding Documents Res. Life has to be as welcoming, inclusive, and all- encompassing as possible. [But] When it comes down to it, they are basically a business, and they do need to make everyone happy, whether that’s possible or not. These attempts can be seen in several sections of this document. Analysis of a University Document

10 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain Take 1: [Staff – residents disconnect] How do residents feel about the Inclusiveness Statement? How do they see if acted out, if at all? Does that vary across residence halls, and resident advisors? How do resident advisors view this statement? How do they think they support the statement? Do resident directors do a lot to make sure this statement is upheld? Is so, what do they do; what don’t they do? Do administrators see the actions taken place in support of this statement? Do they do anything with the residents, or indirectly, to support the statement in an active manner? Furthermore, is there a disconnect between staff and residents in the ideas and actual experiences within the halls? *Question

11 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain Take 2: [Housing staff/administration disconnect] I have been working a hypothesis over in my head since we had the text analysis assignment. However, I am not quite sure I know how to get at the topic in which I am interested. I would venture to say that the Inclusiveness Statement of the Residential Life (University Housing) department means somewhat the same thing to everyone on a very basic level, though on other levels it means something different to Housing staff and administration than it does to the residents of the halls. * Question, cont.

12 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain Take 3: [RAs and housing administration disconnect] After discussing things with my comment group in class last week, I realized what I really want to get at through this project is the disconnect between RAs and the Housing administration. These two groups very rarely converse together, and are actually discouraged from directly addressing one another without using the resident director as a middle man. Administration makes rules, changes rules, administers policies. These things are then told to the resident director who is left to tell them to his resident advisors.... Why is there such a wall between RAs and the administration? * Question, cont.

13 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain And Another Thing.... I also wonder if this is indeed a historical organizational divide, perhaps inescapable for such a large department (although I do not believe that), or if it is something new that has formed in response to current employees’ personal styles, perspectives, and opinions? And a Concern.... I was originally trying to stay away from this topic because I have some personal biases on the topic... As a past RA, I am very curious to know why there has to be such a divide. I never had the chance to ask while I was an RA, and was discouraged from asking, so I would like to take the chance now. I will conduct the interviews very cautiously to try to control some of my biases and keep them from affecting any answers. * Question, cont.

14 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain Take 1: [The big take] In order to try to find answers to some of these questions, I would like to interview residents, resident advisors, and resident directors from a few different halls. Take 2: [Narrowing down] In order to answer this question, I will look at one residence hall on campus. It is one that has historically been considered within the Housing Department to "go against the grain" of the rest of the halls. In the past, they have been known to protest administration decisions in several different cases and points in time. * Plan

15 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain....And More: [+ history] I would like to go through more of the archival documents on Housing. I want to see if I can find something in them that directly relates to the one residence hall on which I would like to focus. * Plan, cont.

16 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain Interview with RA, Natalie Natalie: “I see it as segregated. I mean, I feel like there’s the hall, and then there’s Housing floating, putting red tape around the hall.” Me: “How does that affect your outlook on the job? How do you feel when you say, ‘I am a Housing employee.’? Natalie: “I never say that… I just feel like I don’t represent Housing.” I left the interview with a strong impression that Natalie felt a divide between Housing administration and herself. She communicated this feeling both through direct statements as well as language and body movements. Data

17 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain [Cooking the data?...] Rachael worried about her own role in the interview: I think that it would have been sufficient for me to leave the question at, “do you see yourself as being part of the same department?” I said the word segregation, and that was exactly what Natalie used to answer. On the other hand, given previous statements, this could be a situation like that which Bourdieu addresses: something may be there “which never would have been spoken, but which was already there…”...In listening to the audio recording, I could hear myself accenting certain words that showed my feelings of the relationship between RAs and administration; i.e. stressing the word “they” or “them” referring to administration. Data, cont.

18 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain “Residence Hall Staff Materials” 1966: Men’s Residence Halls Staff Handbook... I found it interesting because the Counselor (RA) is being asked to, at once, be a “fellow resident” (and thereby exhibit no trace of his relationship with administration) as well as a representative of and a liaison to Housing Administration....the documents... provide evidence of the organizational structure of housing in the past. It is fairly similar to that of today. Furthermore, the statements made in the handbooks by administration, especially that last quote, lead me to believe that there was probably a separation between the two. Also, the fact that the word administration was put in quotes by the administration, makes me think that it was a power separation and disconnect that had become quite apparent... Archives

19 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain I asked several resident advisors and some higher administration (although not the “highest”) to draw their idea of where their role in University Housing fits in with other employees of the department and how they are related. I gave each participant a blank sheet of paper and a pen with limited instructions and not much of a prompt. Of the other charts I received, one was rather simplistic at first glance. It appears to be a flow chart just showing the different jobs in housing and where they have traditionally stood. After discussing with the participant, though, I understood that each connecting line’s length stood for the strength of the relationship. Also, the size of the circle that each category was placed in served to tell how that participant viewed their amount of power. For instance, “University Housing Administration” was put at the very tip with large letters. There was also a small description underneath the title marking this category as an “authority” and comprised of “muckety-mucks.” This category was also very distant in line from the RA position, with the RD and AC placed in between. The participant explained that these were the people she had to go through to get to the top. Data, cont.

20 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain [Hypothesis confirmed...] In order to determine the existence of this break in communication between Resident Advisors and those people making the policies by which they live, I conducted an interview with a current 2nd-year RA, researched the University Archives on University Housing, referenced a former Ethnography of the University project, and asked 3 RAs, a resident director, and an area coordinator to create their own visual representations of employee relations. These methods have led to some interesting responses, all of which support my hypothesis thus far. *Discuss

21 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain [Still undone...] Nevertheless, I am still left with the question of how the administration feels, or where the resident director falls in the organization. All in all, I feel I have demonstrated that these RAs are feeling something other than support for their jobs, and that this is causing stress and frustration. I would like to look into this aspect more and determine whether this feeling is universally represented in residence halls across campus, rather than just one. More importantly, though, I would like to talk with more resident directors and higher administration. I am wondering if they even recognize this problem on the “lowest” level of the hierarchy. If they do, I am wondering what are their opinions on the matter, or if they have plans to relieve the stress and frustration of these RAs. With further research in these areas, it can be determined whether both camps of employees see this break in communication.... With this information, perhaps greater strides can be made towards fixing this problem. *Discuss, cont.

22 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain [focus on Resident Director] The resident director (RD) is seen as a liaison between RAs and the administration. They are put in an interesting position between these two groups, and I am interested to hear their opinions are on the matter. The viewpoint of the RD is valuable as it may provide insight on the source of RAs’ frustration. The RD participates in both administrative tasks as well as more direct work with the residents, a position which gives them perspectives of both groups. Proposal

23 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain [Significance of Research] It can be seen through preliminary research posted on my data page for the Anthropology 411 Moodle that, from the perspective of an RA, there are some problems with the way Housing Administration communicates with those who serve as a liaison for the residents....Continuation of this research could hopefully push University Housing to address this issue. A problem such as this has a wide breadth of affect: unhappy resident advisors are less likely to carry out their job requirements, thereby not providing the best resources for the thousands of residents in the halls. A solution to this problem can only be attempted after further research on the cause, and that solution has the potential to improve Residential Life’s employee satisfaction, and should therefore be of interest to the department. Proposal, cont.

24 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain [decision to archive] I plan to publicly archive my research and data. Having complied with IRB, I see no harm in making this data available. It can serve as a benefit to the Residential Life department, and perhaps give them a basis to begin further investigation of their own. In addition, this problem may exist on other college campuses, and therefore pertain to other Housing departments as well as our own. *Reflect

25 EUI Research... Day by Day A Break in the Chain.... In my opinion, the data shows that increased communication across employees and job positions could reduce some frustration and stress for the RAs. [from 3-person comment group]...Your pilot research also demonstrates how ignorant the upper administration seems to be in regard to the frustration of the RAs. I think you should share the results of your research with some of them! Recommendation Comments

26 Ethnography OF (not AT) the University Thinking Institutionally: Easier Said than Done.. Ingrid Bergstrom Romantic Relationships and the University

27 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. on Romantic Relations My research pursues the questions of how romantic relationships impact incoming freshmen, more specifically, romantic relationships carried over from high school, in which both individuals in the relationship matriculate to the university. My research looked to better understand what elements of the University of Illinois impacted these relationships, what effects these changes had in combination with the students transitioning to college, and if there are any measures the university can take in order to assist these individuals, and any others in relationships. I also want to see post matriculation, if and how the University has changed/developed/disintegrated etc their relationship. *Abstract *Question, revised

28 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. on Romantic Relations [Lessons from her interviews: housing matters!] The housing policy at the University of Illinois and how it assigns first year students their housing also has a significant potential to impact relationships. The university requires all first year students to live in University of Illinois student housing [1], and the large majority of first year students live in University owned and operated residence halls [2]. The university of Illinois housing process does not allow for the student applying to choose where they wish to live, it only allows for them to list preferences for halls or certain groups of halls, and they are assigned to their halls in accordance with when they submitted their housing contract.[1][2] [1][1] Author unknown, “Your Illinois Experience Starts here”, University of Illinois Housing and Dining, Prospective Students, The University of Illinois, 2007, [2][2] Author unknown, “Illinois Certified Housing Statistics”. Campus Statistics used in Surveys. The University of Illinois, , Data

29 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. on Romantic Relations In conclusion, I will assert that relationships are in fact affected when the two individuals matriculate to the University, and I would argue that the size of the University coupled with the first year housing processes act as major factors in this change. *Discuss

30 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. on Romantic Relations The University as Actor: An Un-named Population in Need of Service!, cont. Significance The significance of this proposed research is both far-reaching and incredibly important. The concept of “being in a relationship” is a broad concept with very hazy boundaries. It is also something that does not often yield overt and/or obvious negative effects on a student (as opposed to sexual assault, racism, substance abuse etc.) Because of this, I would argue that up to this point, the impact of relationships is not something with which the University has seriously concerned itself. However, I would argue that even in the absence of overt effects, consensual relationships still have a profound and deep impact on students involved with them, for they are often an incredibly personal, emotional and significant part of students’ lives; in many cases these relationships help to shape and define how individuals view themselves and the world around them. Research Proposal, cont.

31 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. on Romantic Relations Thinking Institutionally – Together [An undergraduate classmate has an “aha moment”] I really like the idea of physical space in your project. I have never really thought about how big our campus actually is, and how that could affect a relationship so much. When students used to seeing their partner in high school everyday have to adjust to living on a large campus such as ours it must be quit a shock. You also bring up an interesting point in that new students don't really choose where they get to live. When I first read your write-up I thought to myself, "I got to choose," but I had completely forgotten that those three choices were merely preferences.... Comments

32 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. on Romantic Relations Thinking Institutionally – Together [A graduate student classmate weighs in] Here's a link to the long-distance relationships workshop on Fri., Sept. 12, 7-9 p.m., 406 Illini Union. [the Professor weighs in]...I still want to know more about HOW you imagine the university as an actor in all this -- i.e., with your phrase: "if and how the University has changed/developed/disintegrated etc their relationship" -- what are the processes through which you imagine this happening? Comments, cont.

33 Ethnography OF (not AT) the University Thinking Institutionally: Easier Said than Done.. Steven Lilly Mission Negotiation among RSOs with a Desire to Provide a Social Service to Members of the Community

34 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. Mission Negotiation among RSO’s I decided to focus on the second idea that I presented in the plan section, which has to do with the development of RSOs within the context of the University of Illinois. It is possible that the findings from such a study could also be applied to development of groups in general, as I believe that there are some universal constraints which might steer the development of all groups and organizations. *Question

35 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. Mission Negotiation among RSO’s Money Matters [From an interview:] JOAN:...Well the problem is, things like SORF [Office of the Student Organization Resource Fee] can't be applied to social events. It can't be applied to anything in the community. So anything that students do with members of the community, which is our entire club, they won't fund. [Stephen’s reflections/discovery] I find funding to be one of the most interesting points of study. I believe that it is the way in which the University has the most power over what an RSO can or cannot do. Funding can only be applied to activities that the University deems to be worthy of funds. For many organizations, the sky is the limit as to what can be purchased with SORF money. As a former member of the sailing club, I know that SORF help fund the purchase of three boats last year alone. Here it seems that lack of funding from SORF can steer the club in other directions. Data

36 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. Mission Negotiation among RSO’s (Other) Resources Matter [Taking inspiration from a classmate’s suggestion in her Moodle] First I wanted to attempted a very basic version of what Jenn Baldwin suggested in her proposal: resource mapping. I wanted Mike to map all of the different resources that have been available for the formation of the group. Including things that have not been mobilized. [From an interview:] Mike:...For me personally, I'm taking a course on the sociology of immigration, which just by chance happened to line up with this, and that's been helpful for me to kind of conceptualize these issues in terms of what it really means to be an immigrant, the whole history of immigration in this country. [Stephen’s reflections/discovery]...The University possesses an immense talent in teaching.... This aspect of the University has not been mentioned before. I had been concentrating on the RSO office and their policies concerning funding, reserving rooms, and such, but the University is also a huge source of knowledge and talent that can be drawn on. Data, cont.

37 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. Mission Negotiation among RSO’s (The University Allowing for) An Organic Process Through an extended field study, I intend to show that in order for a community-affiliated RSO to be successful in the midst of complex issues and resource limitations it must not negotiate its mission solely among its student members. Rather, a successful community- affiliated RSO should create its mission through the formation of a relationship between the students and the participating community members based on a common understanding of the issues at hand....If my hypothesis is shown to be correct... the most important factors in the construction of an organization is not the possession of great skill and organizational abilities; rather, the most important factor is the openness to allow organic processes to shape and mold the structure and mission of the organization. Research Proposal

38 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. Mission Negotiation among RSO’s Scaling Up... Organic Processes, cont. A possible recommendation for the University would be that when it attempts to address student needs on campus through initiatives it must not negotiate the mission solely through the consultation of administrators. Rather the University must also allow more organic processes to take place and allow the students to shape the form of these initiatives to correspond more accurately to the true issues being addressed. Recommendations

39 Ethnography OF (not at) the Univ. Mission Negotiation among RSO’s Thinking Institutionally – Together [an undergraduate classmate thinks about how to scale up Stephen’s findings] I kind of forgot about this one... [SORF regulation]...You posit that this study could uncover universal constraints that can be applied to all groups. That’s a neat way to extrapolate from a specific case and make it relevant to a larger group. Comments


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