St. John’s considers its residence life to be a cornerstone of student life and well-being, especially as we continue to become a largely national university versus regional.
Indeed, many students find support systems and close friends in their residence halls, which are predominantly supported and cultivated through Resident Assistants (RAs).
However, RAs are consistently undervalued by the University, based on the policies set in place.
Granted, many other universities of similar standing (i.e. nonprofit and private) have the same problems with undervaluing RA labor — which they use as an excuse for their treatment of RAs.
According to a survey conducted by Reslife.Net and the Association of College and University Housing Officers, “40 percent of RAs receive no cash stipend” and 30 percent do not receive a meal plan or meal stipends. While St. John’s does provide dorming and a limited meal plan, so we are better than 30 percent of schools, we need improvements.
If we take a step back and look at the current reality of being a college student, being an RA can pose many difficulties, which is why I advocate for paying our RAs.
Simply and plainly, RAs deserve more than housing and a limited meal plan.
Whether it’s a salaried position similar to the University of Kansas or a stipend similar to Kent State, that’s what we and many other universities ought to be providing them.
Ask any RA if their job ends when they are off duty, and the response is a resounding “no.”
RAs are on call 24/7, and anyone who has lived in campus housing would know this as they have probably bothered an RA at ungodly hours or knows someone who has.
This becomes burdensome, especially considering that RAs are expected to be active members in other organizations around campus. The Student Life page on the University website even highlights this saying, “Involvement in organizations across the University is important as a campus leader.
Resident Assistants must be available to provide adequate support for their residents and therefore co-curricular activities cannot exceed 10 hours per week.” Note the caveat attached limiting hours for other activities.
Residence Life similarly limits hours on work, internships and credit hours as well.
Today, seven in 10 students work in order to pay for college nationwide.
For the past few years, tuition has steadily risen and living expenses have become unaffordable and immense financial burdens have shifted onto the shoulders of students.
Universities exploit students by employing cheap, precarious student labor to run campus facilities while exempting them from labor protections enjoyed by official employees.
The RA agreement on St. John’s website says that “academic credit hours and outside employment or internships will be limited to no more than 30 combined hours per week,” which poses real problems given today’s circumstances.
With 76 RAs on campus, at least one is bound to have financial needs that necessitate outside employment for income.
Beyond that, RAs miss out on a variety of internships and opportunities because of the limitations of their free hours. Although RAs still do activities and internships, their options are limited and they can miss out on certain time intensive ones.
It’s a miracle how RAs manage to be student leaders with limitations like these.
Given how much RAs actually do (i.e. arrange community events, serve as touchstones and deal with hundreds if not thousands of residents through mediation, drills, etc). and how much they miss out on, we should at least pay them for it.