Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Column: The RA role is more different than ever

October 30, 2020
<p>Janelle James is a reporter at The State News. Photographed by Jaylin  Mitchell.</p>

Janelle James is a reporter at The State News. Photographed by Jaylin Mitchell.

Adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 means being flexible and supporting students, just instead from behind a laptop screen. 

The Resident Assistant, or RA, program is very unique this year. The main goal of an RA is to provide support to students, especially on a social level. Transitioning from high school to college can be difficult for everyone, whether you're an in-state freshman, out-of-state freshman, transfer student or international student. That is why we plan floor events every month: to be a resource for students to use if they are struggling to make friends during their transition. 

It isn’t always easy being an RA. Even though we are about halfway through the semester, roles are still being modified. While you could be a student’s first friend, it has always been difficult to get residents to participate in events unless we use food as an incentive. Now, getting students to attend events is harder than ever because everything is virtual. 

Last year, we planned events where we did face masks, had emotional support animals, movie nights and floor dinners. This semester, there are only so many things you can do virtually without it being redundant.  

The RA program has downsized, partly because of COVID-19, but also because of the lack of organization among the administration. Following President Samuel Stanley L. Jr.’s August announcement that the university would transition to mainly remote learning, RAs in community-style dorms had to move to suite-style dorms if they wanted to stay on campus. Some of them chose to move, and others decided to go back home.

I was lucky because I was already placed in a suite-style dorm when I was selected to be an RA. 

The application process was pretty standard but the role itself is pretty competitive. After the application closes, there is an interview process and this is where I saw how many students applied for the role. 

The interview was a two-step process. At the first table, they ask you questions that are aimed at getting to know what type of person you are. The second table asked what you would do in a given scenario. 

I was placed on the alternate list at first, which wasn't the best feeling, but it was better than not being selected at all. I eventually got a call from my community director asking if I wanted to be placed in Case Hall and I took it. South neighborhood wasn't my first choice, but if I declined the offer, I wouldn't have been able to be an RA at all. 

Many of the residents in the dorms started the semester off as RAs, but were offered a job as a mentor for the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative. This makes it much more difficult to interact with residents because they have a similar job as I and are trying to be a resource for their students too. 

The reduced staff has also affected another component of being an RA, which is duty. We don’t have to be on duty for as many days a month as in previous years, which is a relief. While we’re on duty we have to do rounds in the building every couple hours, answer the duty phone and also handle any situations that may occur during that time. 

The primary negative impact of having less RAs is that some dorms partner with others while on duty. If a situation happens in Case Hall, the RA in Wonders Hall will be called too. Being on duty can be challenging enough, but possibly having to go to another dorm is tiresome.  

Although this year looks a lot different, I still enjoy being an RA. I love seeing my residents in the hallway or in the cafeteria because that is the only time I can interact with them in person. 

This column is part of our Housing Guide print edition. View the full issue here.

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