Student lifestyle at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy is affected by the rigorous academic curriculum, the unique extracurricular opportunities, and the microcosmic atmosphere. Specifically, the academy prides itself on its distinct culture, one some say is the result of residential life. While residential life yields benefits for the institution, allowing students from across the state to attend, it also provides students with a unique taste of dorm life before they hit the college grounds. Although the quest for understanding of independent living is troublesome, students are not alone. With the trusty Resident Counselors (RCs) and Area Coordinators (ACs), students have friendly company, parental nurturing, and apt discipline.
Yet, along with the task of facilitating residential life comes the task of reprimanding. While some believe strict rules and regulations are mandatory to maintain order, others can argue excessive enforcement brings unnecessary stress. There are cut-throat restrictions and time limits for in-hall, in-room, and lights out. A violation of these deadlines results in a punishment, even within a minute. The problem arises with RC enforcement of these strict guidelines. Is it more beneficial for an RC to be completely strict, giving a violation if someone is a couple minutes past? Or should an RC use discretion when addressing a violation?
For 1507 resident junior Roy Chiu, RC leniency is very important. Reminiscing on his old RC, he explains how “He would let [them] do homework with each other in the wing commons after in room. Because of that, the entire wing was more connected.” A certain amount of RC leniency not only has importance for individuals, but importance for the energy of the wing also. While Roy promotes a lax environment, he still understands the importance of discipline, explaining, “it’s important to be strict when need be. Last year, if we ever got out of hand, [our RC] would enforce the rules.” He talks more about the disadvantages of excessive obedience, explaining, “having an extremely strict RC can limit our residential life, studying, and bonding. Now, at night, everybody is in their room.”
1504 RC, Joe Mastrocola, explains his guidelines for quality RC discipline, explaining, “You just need to be consistent with what you are doing, and it’s better for you to be consistent as a hall.” The presence of these regulations allows consistency between the RCs. While some use leniency as means to reduce stress and better the RC-student relationship, Joe Mastrocola believes the contrary. “Some RCs think that if they are super strict with discipline, students won’t like them. But I don’t necessarily think that matters. Last year, some students would say this other RC is a stricter person that me, but I gave out way more violations than he did.”
Ultimately for Joe, the most effective way to maintain order and discipline is creating strong friendships. “I feel you can get by as an RC if you just made sure there is order in the hall. … It makes you much more effective at your job if have a strong student-RC relationship, and it makes the job more fun.” According to his experience, “If you don’t make legitimate connections with your students, it’s going to be hard to know what they’re struggling with and how you can best help and serve them.” For Joe Mastrocola, while RC discretion and leniency is useful, obedience and order can only be effectively maintained through positive student communication.
Similarly, Roy reflects further on the importance of strong interpersonal relationships. To him, “it’s about finding a balance and maintaining trust. It just makes IMSA a better experience where we can forge strong connections and maintain friendships for the rest of our lives.” Not only does positive correspondence add light to the grueling IMSA environment, but it develops student morale. “Your RC is your adult link in the hall. They have wisdom and life advice that you don’t have at this stage. Being close with them can make you into a better person. Plus you can get that girl advice.”
Evidently, priorities between residential life guidelines differ not only between authority figures, but between halls as well. Regardless of gender, hall, or stature, the key to a successful residential career is understanding expectations. Only with balance, trust, and mutual understanding can the RC-student relationship succeed more than superficially. Not only does this entail respecting the RC-student relationship, but respecting those rules and regulations that bring some balance and needed harmony to the concrete jungle we call IMSA.