Gatepost Interview: Jay Hurtubise, director of Community Standards

(Photo by Nadira Wicksana)

What is your educational background and career history?

I went to Bryant University in Rhode Island. … I was a communications major and ended up minoring in sociology as well. … I thought I was going to go into mass media, thought I was going to be a film editor at one point. I loved TV and video classes. I still love doing that. It became a hobby for me. In sophomore year, I became a resident assistant, and that … shifted my perspective a little bit on what college was like and who you could connect with at college. … In junior year, one of my bosses pushed me in the direction to think about higher ed as a career. So, I decided my senior year, I was going to switch to a different residence area. I ended up being an RA in townhouses as opposed to first-year residence halls to get more experience.

I applied to graduate school at Springfield College, which has a renowned program in student personnel administration. In order to get in and also afford it, I needed to get this particular fellowship, which was to work in res life as an RD while I was also going to grad school. I didn’t get a call back the first time, and I was sure I was going to end up just having to jump into res life [and] try to go to grad school later. … [But] then Springfield called back, and they said, “We have one more spot. We want to interview you for it.” They brought me in … and said, “Yeah, we absolutely want you.” … I had a great two years at Springfield, earning the longest degree that you can earn there, which is a master’s of education and psychology with a concentration in student personnel administration in higher education.

I worked professionally as an RD after that. … I came to Framingham right after in 2011. I was the RD of North Hall for five years before I had the opportunity to advance and come into this position.

Why is the Student Assistance Team important? What kind of work do you do?

It’s a multi-disciplinary team where we can have … a student referred to us, or someone’s concern about a student. They see something that’s a little odd, or … some disturbing behavior going on … or “This student is definitely failing my class.” Just feelings and things where they’re saying you don’t need to punish this student in any way … but we’re concerned the student might need an extra level of help. … The Student Assistance Team allows us to look at a range of perspectives where we might all have different information about the student. We’re all in the same room, and we can say, “OK, what are some ways we can actually benefit this student? What accommodations might we be able to afford them? Can we recommend that they register with CASA? Or should this issue be referred to Community Standards, because there’s some underlying issues we need to address?” It really helps fill the gaps. It’s an extra net to help make sure that fewer students fall through and that ensures that more students persist and have success at the University.

What has been your greatest professional accomplishment and what has been the greatest challenge?

My greatest accomplishment has been to position myself in such a way that I got to continue my career at this university. … I came to Framingham. I worked in res life here for five years prior to this position, [whereas] a lot of people in the field … spread out. They go [to] one university and spend a couple years. They go to another university, spend a couple years. They get their experience that way. I felt like I was really able to commit to Framingham, and I really fell in love with the University since I’ve started working here. The students were a lot more earnest than a lot of other students that I’ve worked with in the past. They’re really hardworking. They don’t take anything for granted. I was really fortunate to work with those students and I wanted to stay. … [I’ve] been lucky enough to stay here at Framingham and really build something.

I think my greatest challenge has been one of the main functions of my role here, which is to serve as the University’s primary Title IX investigator for students. There are a number of challenges that come along with that role. One is the sheer amount of documentation and attention to detail [in the] process. There’s a lot of scrutiny that can come toward the University for decisions that are made, the way in which we make our determinations, how we’re seeing through with our investigations. So, I have to be very thorough … to make sure we’re being fair, equitable and impartial the whole way. I do a lot of training for that every year. Last year, I did a particularly in-depth training on being a trauma-informed investigator. We learn ways to be unbiased, but also to understand the effects of trauma. … One thing that’s particularly challenging is remaining emotionally balanced because you’re talking to people who are sharing with you very serious, sensitive, vulnerable moments in their lives. … These are some of their lowest moments. As somebody who went to a very counseling-based master’s program … doing a lot of guidance work, it’s tough because you feel for them in those moments.

What has been a memorable moment in your career?

We had a fire in North Hall in 2013, where someone’s laptop had caught the bedding on fire. It went up the wall … the tapestry went up [in flames]. Fortunately … sprinklers went off. Alarms went off. I was in the lobby, and Campus Police is running in and saying, “There’s a real fire. You need everybody out!” That one was so memorable because of the amount of logistics we had to do. [We had to] make sure everyone had a place to sleep, that all their possessions were OK, and get the cleanup going.

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