Section Nine - Help Desk Assistants

Welcome to the Staff of Residential Life at Tennessee Tech University! The help desks of our residence halls are really the heartbeat of the community, providing services to the residents, guests, parents, and visitors. To many people, the Desk Assistant is the first and sometimes only contact with Residential Life. Therefore, the Desk Assistant has responsibility for not only providing service, but also for representing the Department.

The Desk Assistant position requires a variety of skills, from the ability to answer the phone professionally, to being a resource and referral agent. At various times throughout the year, you will be called upon as a receptionist, diplomat, safety and security agent, public relations person, and many other roles. You will be developing skills in communication, organization, and assertiveness that will be valuable assets as you move on to other positions throughout your career.

This Desk Assistant Manual is designed to provide you with an overview of the responsibilities of your position, as well as specific procedures for undertaking many of your DA duties. It is intended as both a training guide as you begin your job, and a reference guide for later on.

Plan to utilize the manual whenever you are unsure of how to deal with an issue at the desk. If you are uncertain about something do not hesitate to contact a HD or Coordinator.

Again, welcome to the Staff. We are counting on your contribution to the community. You can – and will – make a difference!

RESIDENTIAL LIFE MISSION

The residential life program is a self-supporting program that exists as an integral part of the educational program and academic support services of Tennessee Technological University. We are committed to empowering resident’s and staff to create safe, caring, and inclusive communities that enhances student ownership and pride.

The residential life program strives to:

  • Provide reasonably priced residential facilities and services that are safe, clean, attractive, well maintained, and comfortable.
  • Provide a learning environment and related co-curricular programs that address educational, life safety, leadership, diversity, and student development.
  • Provide communities which emphasize the acceptance and responsibility for personal and group decision making, mutual respect and concern, and a sense of cooperation and sharing.
  • Provide opportunities for students to realize their full potential as individuals, as members of the residential community, as members of the University, and as members of a global society.

This is accomplished by organizing activities that address individual needs and interests, developing policies and procedures, administering residential life disciplinary procedures, advocating for students, and the training and supervising of residential life staff. Furthermore, department activities and decisions are based on the principles of community, safety, personal attention, development of our students, and integrity.

WHO’S WHO IN RESIDENTIAL LIFE

Administrative Staff

  • Director of Residential Life ~ Charlie Macke
  • Associate Director of Residential Life ~ Richard Barns
  • Tech Village Coordinator ~ Ronald Mezime
  • Capital Quad Coordinator ~ Andrew Moneymaker
  • Pinkerton Quad Coordinator ~ Josh Edmonds

Support Staff

  • Secretary – Main Office Area: Mary Galloway
  • Reservationists – Residence Halls: Susan Case
  • Reservationists – Tech Village: Maggie Hooks
  • Account Clerk - Directors Office: Stephanie Stamps

Facilities Staff - Members of the Facilities Staff work closely together to insure safe, comfortable, and sanitary living conditions in the residence hall. Staff from these areas will often be seen in and around the halls carrying out tasks that help make our halls an attractive and enjoyable place to live.

Hall Director (HD) - Provides assistance to the Coordinators in program development, desk operations, staff and student supervision, facility management and general office procedures.

Resident Assistant (RA) and Program Assistant (PA) - Undergraduate students who are staff members living as a member of a community of between 35 to 65 residents. RA’s and PA’s are available to assist in crises or problem situations, as a resource or listening ear, to clarify Residential Life policy and procedure and in the planning of educational/involvement activities.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Training:

Before the desks open, you will be required to attend a one-day orientation. At this orientation, you will learn hall policies, procedures, desk operation functions, expectations, and a great deal more. Contact the main office to find out when training will be scheduled. Besides fall orientation, training may take place during the academic year as needed. This usually occurs during the regular Residential Life Sunday In-services.

Desk Assistant Meetings:

Once the semester is off and running, you can anticipate at least one Desk Assistant staff meeting per month. Generally, this meeting will last about one hour, for which you are given credit. These meetings allow for announcements, discussion of policies, team building exercises, and questions. Missed meetings (without prior permission) may result in suspension or termination of employment.

Scheduling:

The desk is operated twelve (12) hours a day, seven (7) days a week. A permanent schedule is determined each month. Every effort is made to accommodate class schedules and other conflicts. Changes in the permanent schedule should be cleared with the HD. Each staff member is responsible for getting coverage for any shift that they miss. If a genuine emergency problem arises, the HD may help find coverage, but the primary responsibility remains with the Desk Assistant. It is strongly recommended that the Desk Assistant be aware of any possible conflicts well in advance of the occurrence. Remember, you are responsible for your assigned hours.

Documenting Hours:

If you are an employee of Housing and Residential Life as a Desk Assistant, listed below are some of the guidelines you must follow to insure you get credit for the work that you have done.

  • You must sign in and out correctly in the duty log every time you work at the desk during the semester. Failure to do will result in no credit. You must also document your hours weekly with the respective HD. Leave your timesheet in the DA folder. Remember that no Desk Assistant can be scheduled for more than 6 hours per week for the first 10 weeks and 5 hours per week for the last 3 weeks.
  • You must sign your time sheet before the last day of the month. Desk Assistants will sign time sheets at their designated desk. It will be the responsibility of the Desk Assistant to remember to sign the time sheet. Failure to sign the time sheet will result in the desk assistant not receiving a credit for that time period.
  • If there is a problem with your hours (i.e. wrong number reported), you should contact your Hall Director.
  • No Desk Assistant has permission to work overtime. We must have enough available hours left to insure the help desks have coverage throughout the entire semester. Working overtime, without permission, may cause our desks to be understaffed.
  • Desk Assistants are permitted to work split-hour shifts. Shifts must be worked in one-hour increments

DESK ASSISTANT EXPECTATIONS

BE A RESOURCE PERSON – The desk is a source of information. As a Desk Assistant, people will come to you for general information. Therefore, it is important for you to have knowledge of campus and the various services and academic departments, plus a list of telephone numbers and contact persons. It would be helpful to have a supply of campus maps, phone books, etc., at the desk just for this reason. Knowledge of the community and campus events will be a definite asset, too.

BREAKS – During a scheduled shift, Desk Assistants may take a break to use the bathroom facilities. This is the only permitted excuse for a break. If a desk assistant needs to take a break, the desk assistant must find another staff member (DA, RA, HD, etc.) to cover their responsibilities while they step away for a brief period of time. Only staff members permitted to cover for a desk assistant on a break. Desk assistants are not permitted breaks to go outside, to smoke, to get food, or other similar activities. If a desk assistant has a particular concern or issue regarding the break expectation, he or she should follow up with their supervisor. The desk must not be left unlocked at any time.

CONFIDENTIALITY – This is the mark of a professional. As a Desk Assistant, you will come into contact with personal information about people’s lives and the occurrences in your building. It is of the utmost importance to all concerned that you keep this information confidential. Failure to do so may warrant significant consequences. It is also important that you relay important information to the HD or Coordinator immediately. Failure to relay important information is just as serious as giving it to the wrong person. Do not gossip, even amongst staff members. Your self-pride will be based on how much you protect the lives of others. Also, remember that information on the sign in sheets and logs are for staff only.

DRESS AND APPEARANCE – It is important that your appearance be neat and clean. This applies as much to the person working an extended shift as it does to the person who works one hour. Cut off shorts, short shorts, micro mini skirts, ripped jeans, pajamas, or clothing with holes, tears, or rips is not appropriate attire while working the desk. Cleanliness also applies to the desk itself. The front desk is a mirror of Residential Life, and many times is the first and only contact a parent or a guest may have with the University. It is important that the desk is neat, clean, and organized.

KNOW YOUR BUILDINGS – While at the desk, it would be useful for you to know the physical layout of the buildings in your quad. Familiarize yourself with the locations of fire extinguishers, laundry rooms, breaker boxes, lounges, and additional items like TVs, vending machines, etc. You should tour the buildings to give you a greater insight and sensitivity to the problems called in to you. That will also allow you to maintain desk operations and facilitate emergencies.

POLICIES AND REGULATIONS

– Abiding by the University, Residential Life, and hall-specific policies is a definite expectation. Remember that you are a role model! Further, if you allow the rules to be broken for one person, your credibility will be in question. Be consistent!

PROFESSIONALISM – It is expected that you have a sense of pride about your job and that you display its importance in everything you do. Keep your friends and residents from sitting in the desk area, leaning over the counter, loitering, etc. Never ignore a person in need of your assistance. Remember the desk represents the University, Residential Life, your hall, and even you as a DA.

PUBLIC RELATIONS – While the desk staff cannot be responsible for the total living atmosphere of the hall, they are a vital and visible link with the public, both resident and non-resident. The general public is unlikely to forget poor treatment or ignorance of a staff member who is unprepared for the job. They will remember special treatment and attention received at the desk and an eager willingness to help them solve any problems that may develop. Many people will take away a very real impression of your entire operation and you personally. When a person enters the building or approaches the desk, take the initiative to ask, “May I help you?” Do not ignore the person, or delay in responding to them. Be friendly and business-like. Refer them to someone else if you cannot solve the problem. Let the person know you want to help them, even if you do not have all the information.

PUNCTUALITY – It is imperative that you are punctual when working the desk. If you are going to be late, call ahead to notify the person at the desk. If you cannot be at work due to illness or personal reasons, you are responsible for finding a replacement and notifying your supervisor.

QUESTIONS – No question is a stupid question. You are expected to ask when you do not know. Your supervisor is there for you.

SECURITY – You are the eyes and ears of our department, and you will make a difference when it comes to security. We count on you to keep us aware of the happenings in your our halls. A major part of the Desk Assistant job is to act quickly and confidently when problems arise and to keep a sharp watch for any possible security problems. Make sure you know when entrances and exits to the buildings are open and locked. Be aware of strangers or trespassers in the building. Never leave the desk unattended! If you have to be away from the desk, get someone to cover for you (e.g., RA, staff member, etc.- not a resident). You are responsible for the security of the desk.

TELEPHONE USE – The front desk telephone is for business related calls only. Desk assistants are not permitted to accept or receive personal telephone calls via cell phones or the desk phone. The front desk telephone should be answered within the first three rings.

VACATIONS – Desks will remain open during the weeks prior to fall break, Thanksgiving, and Spring Break. Desk Assistants should expect to be scheduled to work during these times unless notified differently by their supervisor. For example of Spring Break is Monday- Friday. The Desk Assistants will be expected to work through the Sunday proceeding the Monday holiday. The same holds true for Thanksgiving Break. The DA’s are expected to work through Wednesday evening at 7pm.

PROCEDURES

DESK OPENING AND CLOSING PROCEDURES

What to do when you arrive:

  • Arrive on time. Your shift begins as soon as you sign in.
  • Always clock in on your DA timesheet for the day (If you do not sign in or out, you may not be credited for the shift).
  • Also sign in on the DA Sign-In sheet. The DA sign in sheet is for you and other staff members to know who is working in the hall. Each time you have to call a staff member for anything, you will need to write it in the Resident Interaction Log. This log needs to be used for only official communication.
  • Update the dry-erase board; check to be sure the DA keys are there when first arriving, prepare/check visitation roster sheets.

What to do before you leave:

  • Make sure desk area is clean and neat.
  • Leave notes on appropriate log sheet.
  • Relay pertinent information to incoming staff member. Inform incoming DA of who is on duty for the area and how they can be contacted.
  • Make sure you have signed your times
  • Employees are expected to work their assigned schedule and clock in and out at the designated times. Any change in schedule requires prior supervisory approval.
  • An employee must clock in and out each working day.
  • No employee shall be allowed to clock in or out for another employee. Violation of this rule may be grounds for disciplinary action against both employees.
  • Time posted to monthly timesheets shall correspond exactly with those hours reflected on the employee’s weekly timesheets. Employee will review timesheet and sign. The employee signature certifies that the time has been correctly recorded for the work period specified.
  • Timesheets shall be maintained in a secure manner. Any changes to the timesheet made by a supervisor will be initialed and the reason documented.
  • Employees may not begin work early without prior supervisory approval. However, they may sign in up to 5 minutes prior to the beginning work time in order to prepare to begin work at the appointed hour. These minutes are not compensable.
  • Employees who clock in more than 5 minutes late will be charged the appropriate leave.
  • Employees shall not clock out early without prior supervisory approval. Employees signing out early without prior supervisory approval will be charged appropriate leave time for time in excess of one (1) minute, and supervisory counseling will occur.
  • Employees shall clock out punctually at the end of their workday. Any time reflected on the timesheets in excess of 5 minutes after the end of the normal workday shall be compensable time.
  • If it is discovered that a pattern of clocking in early, clocking in late, clocking out early, or clocking out late exists, without the employee having secured prior approval, the supervisor will address this concern promptly with the employee. If continued misuse of time sheets is noted, appropriate progressive disciplinary action should be taken to assist the employee in understanding employee responsibilities as they relate to work hours and appropriate signing in and out procedures.

COURTESY AND GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS OVER THE TELEPHONE

Answering the telephone is one of the most important aspects of your job. A Desk Assistant handles many telephone calls at the time during a normal shift. Be sure to answer the telephone promptly (if possible, by the second ring) and always use a cheerful, energetic and courteous voice.

Here are some helpful tips in showing telephone courtesy.

  • The Golden Rule: Always treat others, as you would like them to treat you.
  • Answer your incoming call with the name of your hall so that the caller is aware of the location of the telephone. For example:
    “Hello, __________ Hall, this is ________________, how may I help you?” or…
    “Hello, __________ Hall, _________________ speaking.”
  • Repeat the name of your caller to make sure you heard it correct.
  • Avoid un-business like expressions such as “OK”, “Yeah”, “Uh huh”, or “Bye bye”.
  • Use generously such statements as “Thank you”, “You’re welcome”, “I’ll be glad to”, “Yes”, “Certainly”, “Of course”, and “Yes/No Ma’am/Sir”. These are golden words that everyone likes to hear and makes a good impression.
  • Do not yell into the telephone or across the desk. Try to be pleasant and positive, giving that person your full attention. Even when your shift has been busy and hectic, remember you are still a public relations person for the University and the residence hall, and you are there to serve people in the best way you can.
  • Take written, dated, initialed messages of calls, which must be returned. Include caller’s name, telephone number, time of call, who the call is for and message. (It will help the caller if you repeat the message back to him/her.) Then be sure the message gets to the right person.
  • Do Not say “That’s not handled here”, or “I can’t help you.” Try to determine who might be able to help, then offer to look up the telephone number for your caller.
  • Never say “He’s out for coffee.”, “I haven’t seen her.”, “He left early.”, or “I don’t know where he/she is.” Instead say, “He/She is not in right now, but is expected back at _____ (or in just a few minutes). May I take a message or ask him/her to return your call?”
  • Personal Calls:
    The desk telephones are for office use only. No one, including staff, should use the desk telephones for personal calls. The use of cellular phones and/or cordless phones is not permitted while working the desk.
  • Problem Calls:
    If any call is suspicious or you feel uneasy about giving out information, don’t! Just take the caller’s name and telephone number and have the HD return the call.
  • Hall Rosters:
    The hall rosters contain information on students living in that hall. Information should be listed in alphabetical order and be kept safely behind the desk at all times. Only staff should have access to the hall rosters.
  • Request for Student Information:
    ONLY phone numbers may be give out – no room numbers, hall, roommates, etc.
  • Emergencies:
    • Bomb Threat:
    • Listen carefully to what the caller is saying. Take notes, if necessary. Listen for background noises (traffic, voices, bells, whistles, alarms, etc); listen for an accent or certain speech patter. Immediately contact the police (3234) and give them every detain you know. Call the HD on Duty or Coordinator. Wait at the desk/lobby for the police/staff and further instructions.
    • Weather Emergencies: see page 72
    • Fire alarms: see page 70

LOCKOUTS

As a service to residents, Desk Assistants will assist with lockouts, when residents have inadvertently locked themselves out of their rooms. When handling lockouts positive identification is absolutely imperative. It is the responsibility of the Desk Assistant to ascertain that the person requesting assistance is indeed the resident of that room. The desk will NEVER open a room for anyone other than the current resident of that room. Any questions should be directed to the HD. Acceptable forms of ID are state or university issued photo ID’s, (ONECARD or Driver’s license).

Key Policy

Each hook in the key box will hold four keys to each room. The rooms start off numbered by floors (i.e. Maddux 201, 202, 203…510, 511, 512 then McCord 201, 202, 203…510, 511, 512). When students check in at the beginning of each semester two keys will be left in the key box to the room. If a student comes by because of a lost key, the staff will need to fill out the key out tag, placing on it:

1. Issued by: RA name
2. Received by: Student name
3. Date: day key checked out to student.

The student will be given one week (7 days) to come back to the staff with the key that was checked out and show the staff that they do in fact have their original keys. The staff member must fill out the key log with the following information:

6. Staff member checking the key out
7. Key code
8. Resident’s name
9. Resident’s room number
10. Date Checked-out

On the sixth day, the Hall Director is to contact the student to remind them that the key is due back the next day at ?? time. If key is not returned by that time, a work order is to be placed by staff to have the door re-cored and a student damage form is to be filled out for $35 key re-core charge. The staff member is to also fill out the comments section of the Key Check-out Log by the student’s name.

If the checked out key is brought back and the student has found their original key, then the staff must place the checked out key back in the key box. The staff member is to also fill out the comments section of the Key Check-out Log by the student’s name.

A binder is to be kept in the upper right hand drawer of the staff office, the contents of that binder are as follows:

  1. Key Check-out log
  2. Most recent key code list (to be done weekly by Hall Director)
  3. Master roster for that building

PROCEDURE WITH PICTURE IDENTIFICATION:

  • Check the master roster to make sure the student is a resident in the hall and in that room.
  • Remove the master key from the “lock box.”
  • After properly filling out the “help desk log”, unlock the door for the resident.
  • Return the key to the “lock” box.

IF THE KEY IS LOST:

  • Notify the student that there will be an automatic re-core and the student may be charged. Leave a note for the HD of the hall to follow up in the appropriate HD’s box.
  • Note it on the Resident Interaction Log.

PROCEDURE WITHOUT PICTURE IDENTIFICATION:

  • Check the roster to make sure the student is a resident in the hall.
  • Ask the resident to recite their social security number and room number. All information must be correct. If any information is incorrect, contact an HD or Coordinator for support.
  • If the information is correct, remove the key from the “lock box”
  • If the room key is present, check out the key as per the “lockout log” instructions.
  • After properly filling out the resident interaction log unlock the door for the resident.
  • Check resident’s ID at that time.

EMERGENCY LOCK CHANGES:

  • If a student reports that the keys have been stolen and that an emergency lock change is needed, the student should contact the hall HD or if not available the HD on duty or the Coordinator.

MASTER KEYS:

  • Access to master keys is essential to the effective performance of DA, RA, and HD responsibilities, yet their loss poses a threat to the security of the halls. Therefore checkout of master keys is restricted to authorized DA’s, RA’s and HD’s only. These keys are never to be given out to the residents. Their use is restricted to authorized staff only.

CARD READERS

Each desk is equipped with a card reader. The only people who should use the card readers are the Desk Assistants and hall staff members. The card readers are very simple to use. In most cases, you will simply need to swipe the card to retrieve the hall master key from the lock box. The card reader should be used anytime someone is locked out of his or her room. Should you detect a problem with the card reader, call your HD or the main office.

POLICIES

ALCOHOL POLICY:

No alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs are permitted on the campus of Tennessee Tech University.

EMERGENCIES:

In the event that someone needs medical attention or an emergency situation arises, contact the main office immediately. Get the important information: who, where the resident is, the problem, etc., to pass on to the staff. The duty person can then assess the situation and call for outside help, if needed. Should the situation clearly merit immediate attention, (dial 911 then call TTU police at 3234) if this is done, contact the duty person 3414 so they can assist with events until help arrives. When paramedics or officers arrive, it will be necessary to give them information – room number or location, and the quickest way to get there (e.g. directions to the room, whether or not elevators are working, etc.) In the event of an emergency it is okay to give emergency personnel access to the one card door of the buildings. Room Keys are not to be given to emergency personnel unless approved by a Coordinator.

VISITATION

All guests of the opposite gender must sign in for visitation. Visitation hours are 12 noon until 12pm daily. During visitation hours:

  • Make sure the top of the visitation log sheet is filled out with the correct information.
  • Fill out a separate visitation sheet for each residence halls covered by your desk.

GUESTS:

Overnight guests of the same sex are permitted if the following conditions are met:

  • The guest is registered with the HD prior to staying overnight.
  • The resident host informs the guest of residence hall regulations and accepts responsibility for the guest’s conduct.
  • Guest may not stay more than (2) nights within a seven-day period.

MAINTENANCE REQUEST

GENERAL:

Each resident can report a maintenance request by dialing 3272. However, if a resident comes to the desk with a maintenance concern, the Desk Assistant should offer to help in any way they can. The Desk Assistant should:

  • Call in the request immediately and let the resident know they can do that in the future.
  • Assist the resident in submitting the work order online.

URGENT:

Urgent maintenance requests include any item, which affects the health and safety of residents, and/or the security of the residence halls. Examples include rooms with loose lighting or electricity and problems of no water, heat, or air conditioning in a building. These items should immediately be referred to the work order hotline (3272) so that immediate maintenance assistance may be requested.

PERSONNEL ISSUES

It is always hoped that disciplinary action involving an employee will never be necessary. However, circumstances sometimes require that some action will be taken.

Sanctions for infractions will depend on the magnitude of the infraction and the number of previous infractions. If small infractions occur repeatedly, the staff member may be placed on probation. The length of the probation will be based on the degree of seriousness of the infraction(s), and the frequency with which they occur. Verbal corrections and warnings may be given before a formal probation is needed. Major infractions or breaking of policies may result in immediate probation or even termination. Continued unsatisfactory performance will result in dismissal and prepayment of the remainder of scholarship monies owed.

Examples of infractions that would be grounds for disciplinary action (not all inclusive):

  • Tardiness
  • Inappropriate dress
  • Visitors loitering around the desk
  • Receiving or making personal phone calls while on duty
  • Unauthorized people behind the desk
  • Not completing paperwork properly
  • Unexcused absence(s)

Examples of infractions that would be grounds for immediate termination (not all inclusive):

  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Gross negligence resulting in serious injury to property, person, or public relations
  • sleeping on the job.
  • Physical violence or obscene language
  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on duty.
  • Security violations which include misuse of keys.
  • Unexcused absences which include leaving desk unattended.
  • Insubordination.

 

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