Community as Commodity and Exploited Intimacies: Intimate Citizenship of Live-In Residential Staff

Check out my new article in the May/June issue of About Campus. This one goes out to all of the live-in reslife educators.

Residential life, by virtue of spanning the private and public, has the capacity to generate deep feelings of love and connection, creating spaces for staff and students to develop intimate citizenship—to meaningfully engage questions of what it means to live a personal life in this complex contemporary world. For residential life organizations to do their part to overcome the dehumanizing effects of neoliberalism, they must reckon with the inherent tensions between corporatization and students’ personal development and learning. The increased need to focus on the “bottom line,” efficiencies, and revenue generation are not simply unfortunate by-products of declining public support for higher education, which can coexist alongside holistic student learning and personal development as the aims of student affairs and residential life. Public divestment in higher education is a function of neoliberal governance that is directly counter to holistic aims of student learning and personal development. As long as we treat students like customers, they will be customers, and live-in staff members’ intimacies will be commodities to be consumed—all transactional, not transformational.