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Thursday, February 29, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Letter to the Editor: an open letter to the leadership of Residential Life

 Editor’s note: This letter remains in the condition in which it was sent.  

This letter was sent to all leadership in Residential Life. Paraprofessionals are requesting change now.

As a collective community, we have always done our roles for the residents. For the love of OUR communities. Parapros are more than willing to help a resident in need, wherever, whenever, and however we can. We are first responders, coming in times of crisis to support our residential student community. We help positively change the resident’s lives and assist them in navigating their own futures at the University at Buffalo. We develop a sense of home, belonging, community, support, and love. We connect with students who come from multifaceted backgrounds, different and same as our own. We often sacrifice everything for our residents with no reward or praise because we have integrity.

However, We’ve had enough. For years, Residential Life has relied on the unpaid and relentless labor of our paraprofessionals. For years, we have allowed Professional Staff Members & Leadership Staff to inject fear and terror into our paraprofessionals - the majority of them being minorities.

Again: Residential Life, Are You Focused?

F: Flint Village’s “Other Duties As Assigned?”
We’ve constantly heard throughout training, “Other duties as assigned!” This is always followed up by laughter by leadership. Is this a joke? Leadership, we love doing our jobs and then randomly being told to go put our LIVES at risk to go shut off water… oh wait, “Other duties as assigned.” Instead of listening to our paraprofessionals, you came to us with $5 gift cards as a “Thank You.” What are you thanking us for? For risking our lives in a storm that killed over 50 people in Buffalo, but clearly our lives weren’t important and you didn’t mind if we were added to the death toll.

O: Opioids, Do They Matter?
As paraprofessionals, we are told to listen to the heads of Residential Life. While we follow the chain and listen to our “professional staff”, does that not apply to you all? Last year, the NYS Governor signed legislation that requires narcan in our housing units on our college campuses. Last year, two overdoses also happened in on-campus residences and in both incidents, Campus Living staff administered narcan, saving the lives of a student and a faculty member. It is now five days into the academic year and we have yet to receive this life saving drug. We’ve asked, time and time again for clarity regarding this procedure and have asked for support. Where is it? Nowhere, we have received little to no support from our leaders on this issue. All we ask for is the resources to support our residents and communities in case we encounter another life-threatening moment such as an opioid overdose.

C: Cut The Meals.
Paraprofessionals are constantly told it is a privilege to work for our students and that we are privileged to be in the position we are in. As much as we appreciate our free rooms and privileges associated with being an RA, we need to eat. Our work is not 9-5, we don’t go home at 5pm to families that have fresh cooked meals waiting on the table. Paraprofessionals have seen our meal plans cut in half each year for the past three years with no explanation as to where that funding has gone. We can’t “support positive community development” in our campus dining shops with residents if we don’t have the meals to spend there. You all expect us to be “fueled” to serve our residents but don’t provide the fuel. Further, we are tired of being asked to help support our students but we’re not given support. We are told to support them and receive the opposite from those preaching, “we are here for you.” It’s a problem when campus dining and shops staff are more willing, helpful and supportive to enable us to be role models for our students.

U: Unjust pay.
Family time? No, $3.61/hr.
$3.61/hr. during break duty under hazardous conditions is inhumane and goes against New York State Labor Laws; “The basic rights all workers in New York state have are the right to be paid at least the minimum wage, to be fairly compensated for overtime work, the right to sick and safe leave, to enjoy a workplace free of harassment, discrimination, and job hazards, and the right to have days of rest and scheduled work breaks”. We are not paid minimum wage, do not get compensated for overtime work, and do not work under safe conditions. Open House under the “Other Duties As Assigned” clause in our contract is not fair, and parapros in the past have been paid during this time, why aren’t we?

S: “Success & Retention”
We’ve heard time and time again that we, the students, matter. Our success and retention is something that is “important” to our students at UB, especially those that live in our residence halls and apartments. Is it true? Do our students feel like they are put in places where they can be successful? Somewhere, where they want to stay? For many, that is a definite no. Our most “demeaned” campus is our South Campus, which has constantly had paraprofessionals down there fighting, working hours, and trying to advocate for their residents day in and day out, starting just about three weeks ago when we all moved in, but they moved into buildings that were not (and still aren’t) ready.

Residential Life, we’ve asked you all if you are FOCUSed? It turns out that we, the paraprofessionals, have always been focused. We’ve been focused on understanding that we are nothing but numbers to you all. We’ve focused on that issue at hand, which is that you all don’t care about us. As your leadership colleagues have shared with us during the “reveals” or “training”, we as paraprofessionals are replaceable. Thank you for making us feel like we don’t matter, and are just workers that don’t mean anything at all. So much for Student Success & Retention of our students… Horns up.

Calling For Help,
UB Paraprofessionals

Sincerely,
enFOCUS. 

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