Exeter, Devon UK • Sep 23, 2023 • VOL XII
Exeter, Devon UK • Sep 23, 2023 • VOL XII
Home Comment Easy money and poorly managed: a perspective from a Residence Life Mentor

Easy money and poorly managed: a perspective from a Residence Life Mentor

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I was a Residence Life Mentor in my final year of university. I heard about
the job through a number of friends who did the job and it sounded like a fun, sociable job to do in exchange for a decent reduction  in  my  accommodation rent  price.  At  the  time  I  was living  in  a  freezing,  damp student  house,  and  the thought of living in accommodation  where I didn’t have to worry about  heating  bills was well worth giving up a few hours a week to talk to students.

Having  successfully gotten  the  job,  I  had  two days  of  training  prior  to  the start of Freshers’ Week. Our first major task was to get involved with meeting our mentees as they moved in, as well as participating in a number of talks across the move-in  weekend  to  advocate  the  usual – respect your fl at-mates, don’t get hammered and don’t go home with a stranger to have unprotected sex. This took up a lot of  my  time  that  weekend,  alongside  the three societies I was trying to run as well as the other paid job I had on campus

See,  despite  being  billed  as  such, the  Mentor  role was never one of a paid job.



We were all under the impression  that we  were being ‘paid’  for  our time spent on the job in the form of remuneration towards  our accommodation rent.  If  you  were  a team  leader,  your  pay level ‘increased’ to completely free rather than subsidised accommodation.

In  fact,  we  were  really  voluntary workers  (the  definition  of  a  voluntary worker  being  one  not  entitled  to  receive the  National  Minimum  Wage),  whose accommodation  subsidiaries  were  used to effectively incentivise them into working their hours and more. Problems arose around extra events being held which we could get involved in, but it always ended up  being  the  same  mentors  (including myself) who volunteered for these, meaning we did way more hours than we were being  remunerated  for  through  our  rent reductions.

Because of the hours people did and the fact that no one wanted to lose their rent  reduction,  many  people  ended  up faking  their  reports  each  week  (myself included)  when  we  didn’t  have  time  or couldn’t  be  bothered  to  do  our  rounds. I know a mentor who managed to go an entire term without seeing their mentees – so much so that when they finally went round, the mentees asked who they were.

Absences this long weren’t that common but missing a few weeks at a time and faking your records certainly were – and this was no secret among the Mentors.
One thing that strikes me in hindsight is the absolute lack of any safeguarding or DBS-checking of Mentors. We were all told about the Data Protection Act and warned about confidentiality, but that was the end of it. There are a surprising number of under-18s living in halls (including children in the post-grad flats) for whom legally a DBS-check is required for anyone in a position of authority or trust, as we were. Not to mention that the work we were doing would class students as ‘vulnerable adults’ and also require a DBS-check. It was also fairly common knowledge among the teams that Mentors gossiped (a flat dealing drugs was far more exciting than dissertations) but we were never called out on it.

It wasn’t a bad ‘job’, but it was always very clear that 90% of the people were
there purely to receive money off every week from their rent. It was easy money and poorly managed, and this was sensed and reflected in the effort put in by the Mentors.


In response, the University said:
“It is a shame that the Mentor here did not raise any of the issues mentioned during their time in the role, as the Residence Life team would have been able to offer guidance and reassurance. The role description and details of expectations are clearly defined in the terms and conditions provided to applicants. In the most recent Student Living Questionnaire, 82% of students said that they had met their mentor. We are not aware of Mentors routinely working over five hours per week and encourage any Mentor who felt they were to discuss this with their Team Leader.”

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