What would you say to an opportunity to make a stunning $2.02 an hour, while giving up on most of the experiences that makes college great? Plus the benefit of being used as a pawn by an administration that knows and tells you that you are easily replaceable? In other words, would you like to be a Resident Assistant?
I was an RA from the spring semester of 2000 and recently resigned at the end of the fall semester of 2002. My credentials include nominations for the annual resident assistant awards, Rookie of the Year, Programmer of the Year and Resident Assistant of the Year.
Why did I decide to become an RA? My primary reason was to help out my parents with the ever-expanding tuition bill. My older sister just graduated from Cabrini College and my younger sister just entered St. Joseph’s, so things at home were getting kind of tight. Secondly, I was hoping to get involved and meet more people. The RA position seemed to be the perfect fit.
So, why resign? I realized that I was working for a department that did not care about the individual, but rather their own policies.
I arranged a softball tournament for four semesters that involved the entire Residential Village. Part of the tournament was that each team received free t-shirts. Previous to the fall semester of 2002, the Residence Hall Association covered the charges for the shirts without complaint. When I went back to RHA to see if they would pick up the bill again, they informed me that they would cover the charges, but they would have to take over the league the next semester. RHA, which is advised by the Residence Life administration, asked me to give them estimated amounts for the expenditures, i.e. softballs, bases, t-shirts.
Based on these estimates, RHA gave me a budget to purchase the items. When I received the price quote for the t-shirts, I assumed that the shirts could be covered by the RHA budgeted monies and I could use my RA budget to offset the costs of the other equipment. The RA budget is meant for programs for resident students facilitated by an RA.
Residence Life decided that because of a newly instituted policy, they would prohibit me from using my budget for the Village-wide softball league. RAs are only allowed to use their program budgets for programs intended for their residents on their wing or floor . After a series of meetings, Residence Life decided that the best solution for offsetting the costs for the t-shirts would be to charge my personal tuition account the $177.50 difference. My complaints fell on deaf ears, so I resigned.
The intention of the new policy is to develop better communities on each floor. But by restricting RAs to do programming for their floors only, Residence Life restricts the opportunity to build a community within the building and the Village. It is for the same reason that Residence Life also expects RAs to be in their rooms by 8 o’clock a minimum of five nights a week in the hopes that they will interact with the floor more.
In direct contradiction of this ideal, RAs must conduct duty from an office that, in some cases, is three floors away from “their” residents. In the past, duty was conducted from the RA’s bedroom. Now, Residence Life expects RAs to have strong floor communities when they are away from their floors five hours a night, twice a week. These “offices” that Residence Life deemed adequate to conduct official Residence Life business are converted study lounges.
Not only do these offices not have the amenities that a room does, like a bathroom, but it also takes away space set aside for students to sit quietly and study. When RAs were told of this new policy (we did not have a voice in the matter), we were told that the decision was made and that there was no reason for it to even be discussed. When asked whether this can just be an experiment of sorts, the administration said that this decision was made as a policy and that there was no negotiating.
Residence Life would not allow their RAs, a group of people they call student leaders, a group of people they entrust with the success of their organization, to have their voices heard on decision that directly and adversely affects them. While all this goes on, the RAs deal with alcohol poisonings, roommate disputes, drug abuse, burglaries, on-campus shootings and a host of other interactions with the residents. And don’t forget there is schoolwork to do.
It appears as though Residence Life goes out of its way to make life as an RA difficult. They demand RAs put on programs, they expect you to strengthen floor communities, they want RAs to follow orders without complaint and then after all that they have no compunction against charging a tuition account. They tell you that an “office” composed of a phone, a table, and a few chairs is efficient for official work, and then expect you to be a glowing representative of Residence Life.
It’s 4:30 in the morning; you hear a knock on your door, which sounds like there is a catastrophe in the hallway. You rush to the door and fling it open. As you stand in the doorway in your boxers and an old t-shirt, you realize it is a resident of yours, who has come back from a jaunt at a local establishment. Between rubbing the sleep out of your eyes and his drunken ramblings, you conclude that he has locked himself out of his room.
If you are an RA, you probably can relate. If you are a resident, you probably feel sorry. If you are an administrator, you probably don’t care.