Row houses extend unofficial staffing offers despite ResEd’s disapproval

March 14, 2017, 2:05 a.m.
Row houses extend unofficial staffing offers despite ResEd's disapproval
Houses on the Row often give unofficial staffing offers despite ResEd’s prohibiting it (ZOE SAYLER/The Stanford Daily).

Official staffing offers for all Stanford residences were released last Friday. As is tradition, many prospective staff members for co-ops and self-ops heard much earlier from houses if they were due to receive positions. But this year, Synergy announced in an op-ed in The Daily that it would not be releasing unofficial decisions, sparking a discourse on the longtime process of extending informal staffing offers.

The Office of Residential Education (ResEd) explicitly prohibits unofficial offers of any kind as they “negatively impact the integrity of the process and the strength of the Row Program,” according to an email sent by ResEd to current staff members on the Row. However, unofficial offers still remain the dominant way to release decisions among Row houses, according to students familiar with the process.

Applicants, current staff members and next year’s staffers alike see both pros and cons in this process of unofficial staff offers. Joshua Seawell ’18, who applied to Xanadu this year, felt that the system has advantages.

“The unofficial decisions allow people to find out the verdict as quickly as possible and move on with their lives accordingly, rather than endure the longer waiting time through the official ResEd system,” Seawell said. “Moreover, it feels more personal to hear directly from the house staff instead of a more bureaucratic authority.”

However, many applicants and staff members alike were concerned about the impact of unofficial offers on the “double-matching” process, in which houses rank their applicants in order of preference and the applicants, in turn, do the same for the houses. An algorithm then releases positions based on how good a “fit” an applicant is for a given house. In other words, parties will match if they both rank each other highly.

Unofficial acceptances are often contingent; houses are willing to rank an applicant well only if the applicant commits to the house beforehand. Such a contract was extended by a Row house to an anonymous junior, who was given 48 hours to accept the offer. The offer required that the student rank the house as his first preference; if he rejected it, the dorm would call the next-best applicant in its pool to extend a similar proposal.

Houses such as Synergy oppose the unofficial offer system, as community members believe that it “compromises” the double-matching process.

“We want applicants to select Synergy on their own accord, and not because we’ve ranked them well, in order to keep the double-matching as objective as possible,” said Calum You ’17, a current Resident Assistant (RA) at Synergy. “In this regard, unofficial offers can really interfere with the match system.”

Some applicants also worry that nepotism often seeps into the appointments of staff members. Two juniors who wished to remain anonymous and who both participated in the current applicant pools criticized the selection process as favoring students’ friends rather than being meritocratic. One junior called out Greek houses in particular for exercising this sort of partiality. Both students also drew a potential parallel between unofficial offers and nepotism in staff selection.

Despite the emails warning staff against extending informal decisions, ResEd’s practical stance on the issue remains somewhat ambiguous.

“ResEd is aware that Row houses extend unofficial offers,” You explained. “The most that they can do is give stern warnings to the staff about releasing decisions unofficially. However, the stricter ResEd gets about it, the more the autonomy … gets undermined.”


Contact Surbhi Sachdeva at surbhi3 ‘at’

Surbhi Sachdeva, a writer for the University/Local Beat, is a sophomore from New Delhi, India. She’s potentially majoring in International Relations, along with an extremely undecided minor (or two). She enjoys debating, writing, finding jewellery in the oddest of places, and Rick & Morty; but only finds true solace in procrastination. For the past 5 years, Surbhi has been actively challenging the claim that the human mind can remember and identify 10,000 scents by smelling nearly everything that she encounters. Contact her at surbhi3 'at'

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