Faculty Use Commons Duty to Help Regulate Healthy Dining Environment

Students may have noticed faculty members dining in Lower or Upper Right, but few may have realized that they are participating in “Commons Duty,” a policy designed to maintain a healthy dining environment. Instituted five years ago, Commons Duty is a cluster-based effort that assigns faculty members to monitor students one night per week during dinner hours from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Paresky Commons. “The idea behind ‘Commons Duty’ is not to sneakily catch kids doing bad things. Trust me, There is no ‘big secret,’” said Cindy Efinger, Dean of West Quad South. These Commons Duty assignments are organized by Cluster Deans according to a five-week rotation. Each week, a different Cluster Dean is required to assign at least one faculty member from their respective cluster to “Commons Duty.” In West Quad South, for example, sometimes one or two faculty members will be on Common’s Duty during the week. Leon Modeste, Head Football and Basketball Coach and Complementary House Counselor in Stuart House, said that Pine Knoll assigns two or three faculty members to Commons Duty every night during their week. Clyfe Beckwith, Dean of Flagstaff, said, “During Commons Duty, we ask teachers to sit in ‘hotspots’ where students are most likely to get too rowdy or leave messy tables. Having a teacher present in situations like that can stop a problem before it even starts.” These “hotspot” locations where teachers monitor students include Lower Right, Lower Left, Upper Right, the Den or the Entrance Hall. “We try not to have faculty members sit in Upper Left when they are on duty just because that area already consists mainly of faculty members and families,” said Beckwith. This practice has evolved over the past few years in its location and purpose. “About five years ago, just after Commons had been renovated to include cubbies, we [cluster deans] asked teachers to stand in the Entrance Hall during ‘Commons Duty’ and make sure that kids were placing their bags safely in these cubbies. We have also required that faculty members on duty remain in the Riley Room in past years,” said Beckwith. “Since then, we have realized that faculty members are just as capable of locating these student dominated ‘hotspots’ as are the Cluster Deans. Now, we no longer assign teachers to a certain area of Commons, but instead let them decide,” he continued. Faculty members who are currently residing in student dormitories are excused from any “Common’s Duty” requirements. A faculty member may also be excused depending on the teacher’s participation and workload in the school community. “When it is West Quad South’s turn to assign someone to ‘Commons Duty,’ I normally contact the non-house counselors and ask them to show up whenever their schedule works best for them,” said Efinger. Teachers on duty are expected to maintain an appropriate eating environment and to prevent students from leaving trash and dishes for workers at Paresky Commons to clean up. “Reminding students to pick their food and trays up is something that we try to constantly reinforce. And having faculty members nearby, allows us to remind students more directly and effectively,” said Efinger. “I think the fact that a lot of students do not know about the faculty ‘Commons Duty’ is a total coincidence. I don’t see it as an advantage or disadvantage that students don’t know about the duty. Instead, I see it as simply a natural way for faculty to engage with students by sitting in the same space as them,” she continued. The term “Common’s Duty” differs from the commonly known work duty assignment, in which students are required to clean tables after dinner in Paresky Commons. “The only change that I would make to Commons Duty would be to designate one table for the faculty member on duty to sit at every night. This could maybe be a smaller table towards the center of the room where the faculty can really see everything that is going on. This way kids know exactly where their faculty member is and can find them if they need anything,” said Modeste.