For the first time in decades, Dwight Hall is undergoing a major overhaul to its operations.
Following the retirement of former Executive Director Alex Knopp in September and former Financial Director Ray Bendici last spring, the public service organization hired Jeannette Archer-Simons as interim director to complete structural and organizational changes, said Constance Royster ’72, chair of Dwight Hall’s Executive Committee. Archer-Simons said Dwight Hall staff, students and board members are updating the organization’s financial management, communications, facilities and bylaws to make the organization more efficient, while allowing for a “time of reflection” at Dwight Hall.
“We’re strengthening the financial oversight and practices,” said Will Redden ’14, Dwight Hall’s current co-coordinator. “Our standards and practices … were out of date and a little lax, and we’ve been able to update them thanks to [Archer-Simon]’s expertise.”
Though all staff, students and board members interviewed declined to provide information about the specific practices that led to the overhaul, Jensen Reckhow ’13, co-coordinator for the 2011–’12 year, said the board previously had an “unclear direction” and inefficient communication.
Archer-Simons said Dwight Hall has implemented a variety of procedures to ensure that its student groups follow consistent financial practices year to year despite the constant turnover in Dwight Hall student leadership. New initiatives include the creation of a central data network and a reporting system intended to measure the impact of Dwight Hall service programs on participating students and communities, Archer-Simons said. The organization intends to require constituent student groups to write annual reports assessing the effect of their work, she added. Dwight Hall also plans to improve the organization’s risk-management processes, with increased insurance protection for students, and streamline a variety of organization practices, such as paying students through the Yale University payroll and facilitating the use of Dwight Hall facilities for on-campus service groups, Archer-Simons said.
“We’ll finish our budget for next year and have all our policies and practices updated by the time the new executive director comes in,” Archer-Simons said. “He won’t have to deal as much with structure and will be able to talk about vision and moving the organization forward.”
Reckhow said new policies will ensure Dwight Hall committees meet more regularly, take minutes and increase their productivity. The organization is also updating its bylaws, including policies about how jurisdiction is distributed in the organization, Reckhow said, adding that revisions to job descriptions will allow more flexibility in the organization because, in the past, “people have had problems being stuck in boxes in terms of what they can or can’t do, so we’ve been developing infrastructure to be more flexible.”
Though plans for Dwight Hall to move from its present location on Old Campus to a facility at 143 Elm St. have been in place since 2006, the move came to a halt during the 2008 financial downturn. Reckhow said the organization aims to renovate its current offices, as concrete plans for the move remain undetermined. Planned renovations include painting, cleanup efforts, new furniture and a layout change, Archer-Simons said.
Dwight Hall has an annual budget of roughly $900,000.