Students can expect expanded key card access to residence halls and a revamped First Year Residential Experience (FYRE) program, thanks to changes made by Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS). Two new hires also joined the REHS staff this semester: Dustin Beech as the Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s first graduate hall coordinator (GHC) and Thomas Wesley as the assistant director for student conduct and housing services.
Card access is available to all residence halls for students living on-campus. Occidental identification cards will now grant students access to the main entrance doors of all on-campus residence halls, 8-12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8-2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, according to Director of REHS Chad Myers.
The new card policy is a response from REHS to student requests for greater accessibility to residence halls, Myers said. It also serves as a way to discourage students from propping doors, which REHS considers a safety concern.
REHS chose to restrict the card access change to those living in residence halls, a decision that has caused some frustration among students living off-campus.
“It’s annoying that I don’t have the same access that students who are living on campus have to the dorms,” Andy Eichar (junior) said. “If the administration just let us have the access they let everyone else has, there would be no harm that would be done.”
However, there is the possibility that card access to residence halls may be extended to off-campus students in the future, according to Myers.
“We thought it best to limit access to those students living on-campus during this pilot period,” Myers said. “If all goes well we may look into opening this access up to all students.”
For its second year of operation, REHS modified its FYRE program by eliminating the online components and assigning all resident advisors (RA) to lead sessions in order to shrink the average group size.
“We really wanted to focus on the conversations that students were having in their FYRE sessions and get students talking to one another,” Myers said.
The purpose of FYRE is for first-year students to learn about the college experience from upperclassmen through RA-led conversations about topics such as alcohol consumption and sexual misconduct.
Last year, only RAs of first-year halls led FYRE groups, which meant group sizes were disruptively large for some first-year students.
“We thought that it was important to keep the group size as small as possible, to encourage students to interact with one another more frequently,” Myers said. “In order to drop the FYRE class size we needed to add more FYRE leaders and that is why we have all RAs leading groups this year.”
A GHC now resides in Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity house, just as in every residence hall on campus. REHS hired Dustin Beech to take on the role in addition to his responsibilities of overseeing student housing concerns and student conduct. His duties include assessing work orders and creating a comfortable environment for residents.
“In past years, a GHC would oversee housing concerns with the assistant director and associate director for housing as a collateral project for approximately 5 hours per week,” Beech said. “After assessment, REHS determined that they were in need of a GHC to solely focus on housing for 20-25 hours per week. My position is a result of that decision.”
Beech is a member of the national chapter of SAE. He believes his fraternity membership has contributed to the success of his position and his relationships with members of the house.
“Upon interviewing, I was not only interviewed by REHS staff, but I was also interviewed and evaluated by SAE executive council members based on my knowledge and understanding of the culture of the fraternity,” Beech said.
Members of SAE welcome Beech as a resident in their house and as a valuable resource for their fraternity.
“Dustin is another one of the brothers,” SAE President Torey Ortmayer (junior), said. “Dustin attends our chapter meetings and has served as an incredible resource for me and my officers to run ideas by and find ways to innovate our historic organization.”
Beech graduated from California State University, Northridge in 2014 and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in post-secondary administration and student affairs from the University of Southern California.
REHS also hired Thomas Wesley as the assistant director of student conduct and housing services, a position that was created this year. Wesley supervises Occidental’s student conduct process and works with students who are accused of violating the College’s Code of Student Conduct.
“Typically when I meet with a student, we talk about what happened, if there was any harm caused, and ways that we can make the harmed group whole again,” Wesley said.
Wesley joined Occidental with a background in conflict management, education and LGBTQ programming after receiving his Master’s degree from Michigan State University in 2012.