The Pressures of Being a Chamberlain
A Chamberlain's life can be unpredictable. Every week is different for Chamberlains. Sometimes they work 25 hours a week, other times it can be as low as ten.
This year the Chamberlain position has come into question. Student Body President Brandon Smith brought up during election season that the position has issues that need to be addressed.
“I believe it is our school’s responsibility to examine whether or not the responsibilities of Chamberlains are healthy for them or the student body. Even if students are capable of fulfilling these responsibilities, we need to ask if they are the most effective people for the job,” Smith said.
Former QE1 Chamberlain Tendai Savage thinks that Chamberlain is the most difficult position.
“You are one person and you are expected to care for 50 other people and also somehow care for your own spiritual, mental, and physical health. It’s impractical. “ Savage said.
"More than 90% of the time it’s different than the actual job description."
According to the 2017- 2018 Statesmanship Institute’s Leadership Manual, “The House Chamberlain promotes safe and healthy living environments, fosters a community of Honor and connectedness, and provides periodic on-call emergency assistance.” Their responsibilities are to, “support house community, coordinate character development efforts and understanding of honor and the Honor System, facilitate personal and relational conflict resolution, and assist with emergencies as part of the emergency phone system.”
“Everyone feels passionately about the position. They feel certain about what the Chamberlain is supposed to do and yet they all have a different idea of what it is. More than 90 percent of the time, it’s different than the actual job description.” Chamberlain of the House of C.S. Lewis, Edward Vanzandt said.
Ten students each year since 2014 are nominated and elected to serve each of their houses of King’s students through an election that occurs the semester prior to the new school year.
To be qualified to run for Chamberlain you must have a 2.5 cumulative grade point average, live in the House’s assigned residence, have good financial and behavioral standing, attend the 13-day student/leader training before the next semester, and expect to work 10-15 hours a week (although, that number is currently up for debate).
To be a Chamberlain, you “need to be level-headed, wise, the kind of person who can hear about a lot of people’s crap and not lash out and judge them for that. This is showing them a better way but not in a hateful way.” according to the House of Ronald Reagan Chamberlain, Ian Wilson.
“The Honor Code Police”
“I asked freshmen out to coffee this year because I haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time with them. They show up and the first thing they ask me is, ‘Am I being honor coded?’ It’s hard to break the stigma that chamberlains aren’t here to make sure people follow the rules, rather that people do better in life,” Chamberlain of the House of Clara Barton, Paige Pruett said.
Another responsibility of the Chamberlain is to handle honor violations. The Honor Code is rooted in biblical values modeled after Matthew 18: 15-20 which states:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (NIV).”
There is a spectrum of beliefs about the Honor Code; it’s either beneficial, harmful, or both for the students at The King’s College.
"They show up and the first thing they ask me is, ‘Am I being honor coded?’"
Sophomore Amelia Stanford said the Honor Code, “restricts relationships between peers and promotes the culture of ‘perfection’ at King’s.”
In 2017, Student Development gave an anonymous honor survey to the student body to gauge perceptions of the honor code; 79 percent of the student body completed the survey.
42.6 percent of those who completed the survey said they would definitely defend The King’s College Honor System if a peer asked about its legitimacy.
60.5 percent said they have never confronted another member of the King’s community for violating the Honor Code or a community standard.
Others believe that the issue is not in the system but it’s in the culture of The King’s College student body. There’s a stigma around the Chamberlain position.
“The Student Life team also does not place a lot of those expectations. They are very good at communicating what our role is. However, every student at The King’s College does not have those standards,” Wilson said.
“They have these perceptions that the Chamberlain is the Honor Code person, the person who is suppose to make them a better Christian, initiate this super meaningful spiritual life, always have their door open so they can come in and complain to you about anything, and you have to listen and tell them everything is going to be okay. These expectations are the hardest thing. It’s easy to feel like you are letting people down. If I leave my door open all day, I feel like I can’t get work done. If I have too many boundaries, I could be shutting people out," Wilson added.
Wilson included that the House of Reagan approaches the Honor Code differently than some of the other houses and he prefers it this way. “We see the conversation after someone breaks the Honor Code as the most important thing. And reporting this to our house advisor and disciplinary action as a secondary thing," Wilson said.
The first thing the executive team addresses is which house member will have the conversation with the person with the honor violation. In Reagan, this person is the usually the one that’s closest to them. The Chamberlain is not expected to have this talk with them every time.
The handbook says the Chamberlain should expect between 10-15 hours of work each week.
“There isn’t a daily schedule. There’s no schedule for need. People's needs change daily and it's important to be adaptable. Connect them to resources to meet them where they are.” Chamberlain of the House of Queen Elizabeth I, Annabelle Ford said.
Their days can look like having multiple coffee meetings with house members, mediating roommate conflicts, exec team meetings, handling honor violations, and holding the emergency phone.
The Chamberlains are also trained in CPR, AED, and basic first-aid certification. They are expected to go to hospital visits.
Throughout the year, there are situational guidelines, role plays practiced, and ongoing Chamberlain meetings to refresh and debrief for certain situations.
Ford thinks the position needs to be more defined to equip people for good relationships.
“I wish that if they were going to expect us to deal with some of these heavier things, just to be more honest. We aren’t going to be doing elevator pitches as much as sitting with someone who is in a really dark place. What do you do then? You are not selling King’s then. You are selling to them that they are valuable.”
We aren’t going to be doing elevator pitches as much as sitting with someone who is in a really dark place. What do you do then? You are not selling King’s then. You are selling to them that they are valuable.”
Ford discusses her optimism toward the progress and improvement of the position and the culture around it.
“I've had really good conversations with people in administration and I have a lot of hope that they're going to do what they can to change the culture around exec positions. I love my house and a lot of people at this school and am really excited for the changes I already see being made," Ford said.
The Chamberlain is asked “to assist with emergencies as part of the emergency phone system.” Each Chamberlain has a designated time that they must hold the emergency phone, which means they must stay in the Financial District and are first responders to emergency calls they receive.
This is one of the ways VanZandt said the Chamberlain position is different from the other exec-team positions.
“As a holder of the emergency phone, we are externally focused as well. We serve the entire community, if someone is in trouble, regardless of the house we (Chamberlains) help them,” VanZandt said.
Aside from the difficulties of the position, VanZandt explains that he has had a unique opportunity to give back to the community as a Chamberlain. He has had the opportunity “to live out the biblical calling to honor, and to foster spiritual and personal flourishing in both the House and the school at large,” VanZandt said.
During VanZandt’s senior year of high school, the House of Lewis had just won Interregnum. VanZandt went with his future house members to Bryant Park to celebrate. Fisher Derderian, the 2015-2016 President of the House of Lewis and senior came and sat down with VanZandt to talk. VanZandt explained that Fisher didn’t know if he would ever see him again or if he would even go to The King’s College. Fisher and VanZandt had an hour long conversation about Christian virtue and what it means to be a man of honor. His first interaction with the Honor Code was his conversation with Fisher.
“It was that talk with Fisher that showed me the importance of living a good Christian life. And that you can do so through this system. I wanted to be a Chamberlain to spread a positive view about the Honor Code, that it doesn’t constrict you from doing things but enables you towards a better life, towards the good,” VanZandt said.
Another Chamberlain explains his gratitude for the position because of the relationships they get to build.
“You get the platform to be the person to ask the questions about the house. I like that ability to walk up to a person and say, 'Hey, how’s this going? I heard you’re dating this girl. What’s happening there?' I don’t think that’s a Chamberlain specific thing. However, it’s interesting that in this role it’s not weird to do that and you have the opportunity to go super deep, super fast. I like that because I am not really a fan of small talk. I like having real conversations with people about where they are at in life,” Wilson said.
Recently during the Chamberlain’s Statesmanship meeting, they revised the job description of the Chamberlain position for next year. No official revisions have been announced yet.
Editor's note: A correction was made at the beginning to omit a story about Annabelle Ford and her evening schedule, due to an editing misunderstanding. It was a collection of events and did not occur on the same night. Another correction was made to fix the Bible verse Matthew 18: 15-20.