Cabrini’s ResLife: from intimacy to oversight

By Colin Tomczak
May 7, 2024

The staff of ResLife that started in August 2023. Five staff members have left since then. Photo by Cabrini ResLife.
The staff of ResLife that started in August 2023. Five staff members have left since then. Photo by Cabrini ResLife.

Just seven years ago, students were worried about having to search for off-campus living due to an overabundance of enrolled students. Today, overcrowding is the least of a Cabrini student’s worries. But even with a small residential population, Cabrini’s Residence Life has tried its best to maintain a tiny, but mighty, community. Or was it their best?

Loss of intimacy

The staff of Residence Life in 1987. John Doyle is on the far left. Photo by Woodcrest Yearbook staff ’87.

Communication department professor John Doyle worked in ResLife from 1986 to 1991. He started as the resident director of Xavier Hall and quickly moved to director of Residence Life.  “The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the level of intimacy between the ResLife staff and the student population,” Doyle said, “I was the Director of Residence Life, and as a result, I lived in the residence halls with the students.”

Having ResLife staff members integrated into residence halls brought a variety of benefits. The foremost being the fostering of a tight-knit community. Students often organized many of their own events. “There were tons of dorm activities, like a miniature golf course in Xavier,” Doyle said, “ResLife didn’t do it. The guys said ‘We want to do a miniature golf course’ and I said ‘Okay!’” 

The residents of Xavier Hall banded together to create the first-place float for the Homecoming Parade. It was a store that sold beer, beer, and more beer. Photo via Woodcrest Yearbook Staff ’90.

ResLife led and facilitated student events, as it does now, but the community itself took charge of every other aspect of the event. In recent years, this structure has changed. ResLife staff members now take on every role in student events, including organizing, publicizing, leading, and facilitating. Emily Lichius, a sophomore writing major and Resident Assistant, said, “We [the RAs] are asked to come up with an idea we think our residents will like. Then we send a proposal to be approved by ResLife. And we hope our residents are interested enough to come out.” 

The RAs of each building are required to host at least one community event per month. “They’re seen as something to be checked off a list, and something people aren’t always interested in,” Lichius said.

Recent ResLife

Once Cabrini announced its closure, its student population decreased significantly. Only 217 students will move out of their residence halls at the end of the semester. With a smaller student population, it’s harder to maintain a strong community. 

A larger student population would lead to more camaraderie among residents and a higher awareness of challenges. Francine Baker, area coordinator for ResLife, said, “There is not much of an opportunity [for camaraderie] while students live in singles. There’s more of an opportunity for a resident to fall between the cracks.” 

The current residential community is shrunken and scattered, and this is not limited to students. ResLife staff members are also few and far between. This creates problems when a student might need help. When Andrew Stovenour, a senior digital communications major, was locked out of his room, he was unable to reach ResLife for assistance. “Nobody picked up [the phone] so I just walked over. It was 2 p.m. on a Friday and the ResLife office was completely closed,” Stovenour said. 

Typically, residence halls have a resident director, and a few Resident Assistants, who live in and supervise each building. While the four active residence halls have two or more RAs living in them, there is only one person who oversees all of the buildings. There are also three other staff members who provide additional help if an incident occurs. Doyle said, “The Residence Life program this year is smaller than anything I ran.”

In addition to having fewer members, the ResLife staff is physically distanced from the residential community. Area Coordinator Baker does not live in the residence halls alongside students. Instead, she lives in a building that was rendered “offline” due to maintenance issues. In addition, the Director of Residence Life does not live on campus and does not interact with the residential community outside of student conduct meetings. 

Living farther from students makes it hard to connect with the community. “I have to be intentional about connecting with residents,” Baker said. Although the ResLife office is nested in one of the active residence halls, Baker finds it more difficult to interact with the residential community outside of working hours. 

Inklings of community

Despite the drastic shift in the presence and involvement of ResLife in the residential community, there have still been efforts to bring residents together. The ResLife office hosted a biweekly event called “Woodcrest Cafe” where they provided residents with a chance to socialize and enjoy a variety of foods, including pancakes, ice cream, and pie. 

Detaching ResLife and its staff members from the residential community, both administratively and physically, has shifted the dynamic between ResLife and students. “It feels like they’re the police. The only time anyone sees them is when something bad happens,” Stovenour said. 

Previously, ResLife used the closeness between its staff members and students to create and encourage growth within the community. Now ResLife is like a spectator managing the community from afar. “As we become focused on balance and control, we lose focus on the community aspect, which is about presence and intimacy,” Doyle said. 


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Colin Tomczak

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