RLO Firings Upset Staff, Residents
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 15:02
On January 11th, hall counselors arrived on campus to prepare for the arrival of residents upon their return from winter break. Chris Blanchard ’14, a then-hall counselor on the basement floor of Richardson dormitory, wanted to have a party for a hall counselor friend of his who had recently turned twenty-one. Blanchard purchased and brought three six-packs of beer and a bottle of wine to the party, where nine hall counselors and two other people watched “How I Met Your Mother,” ate pizza and drank some of the alcohol. According to Blanchard, he “stood up at the front of the room” and said “if you’re not 21, don’t drink; if you are, feel free.”
The party, taking place in the lounge of first floor of Cannon dormitory (a substance free hall), proceeded uneventfully. At the end of the night, around midnight, there were seven beers left over and some of the wine. All of the open containers had been thrown away at that point, when Emily Julian, the Area Coordinator for Richardson, Cannon and Watts appeared and told them to disperse.
The next day, two students attendees of the previous night’s party were pulled aside by Julian and asked to name the names of those present. Those students obliged, and the nine who were present received an email requesting that they meet with RLO. Staff members present gave all of the requested information.
According to an anonymous source present, “Emily Julian said ‘it doesn’t matter to me whether you were or were not drinking, whether you’re 21 or not, you were all there, you were all in Cannon, you all saw it happen, and you all let it pass by.’” Afterward, Julian held back the student-staff members who were under 21. Blanchard then recognized that two of those staff members had been drinking and, as he says, “that was the moment that I realized that I had provided alcohol to underage people, and that things were about to get a lot more serious.” Those staff members were Nytn Yashiro ’14, the hall counselor from first Cannon, and another Cannon hall counselor who asked to remain anonymous.
All those hall counselors who had attended the party wrote letters to Emily Julian, explaining the situation and expressing their regret. Assistant Dean of Students and Director of RLO Jason Shaffer met individually with every hall counselor who was present during the drinking and discussed those events with them, attempting to “gauge our thought process,” and “see whether our community is more poised to succeed with us or without us,” said Yashiro. According to hall counselors involved, Dean Shaffer expressed his general mistrust of some of those who had been drinking in Cannon that evening, despite, as one anonymous hall counselor put it, their feeling that they had been “nothing but honest with RLO.”
“They called me into another meeting, after they’d met with everyone, and told me that I could either resign or be fired,” Yashiro said. Blanchard echoed this description, and all three resigned. Blanchard and Yashiro confirmed these accounts; Dean Shaffer and Area Coordinator Julian declined to be interviewed for this story on the grounds that they were unwilling to discuss personnel issues.
Though Blanchard and Yashiro say they clearly understand that they broke the law, they have mixed understandings about the reasoning behind why they were fired. “In my opinion, since RLO feels like they are in a position of weakness, they have to act as if they are not so that they can try to prove they’re not [weak],” Blanchard said. “Part of me worries that the decision was made with establishing [RLO’s] legitimacy and reputation in mind, not the best interests of the residents.”
Yashiro understood that he was asked to resign “because I broke the law.” While the Hall Counselor Agreement mentions a variety of responsibilities, it does not mention any requirement for the Hall Counselors to be in accordance with local, state, or federal law. It does, however, require obedience to the Honor Code and the Code of Responsibility, which states in Section VIII: “Davidson College expects to operate in accordance with the laws of the State of North Carolina. Possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by anyone under twenty-one years of age is forbidden by the State of North Carolina.” Yashiro did not perceive Dean Shaffer and Ms. Julian’s justification for his termination to be related to the Code of Responsibility.
After the resignation of all three Hall Counselors, residents reacted by making posters and writing letters. “We wanted her to be able to stay,” one resident said. Residents of fourth Cannon created posters which, read together, spelled out “We love our counselors.”
“A lot of us got together to write letters to Dean Shandley” a Fourth Cannon resident. The other Cannon hall counselor was allowed to remain as a resident in her room, though she is no longer an employee of RLO. “Her role with us hasn’t changed,” another resident told me, “she just doesn’t get paid to do it; she’s doing it out of the goodness of her heart.” This incident has affected students’ desire to get involved with RLO: “I was thinking about being an RA and it affected my decision because I felt like, even though it was justified, they were breaking up a community,” said one resident. “They were judging their character based on that one incident. It hurt a lot and I didn’t want to do it anymore.”