The University of Maine is a community full of people with diverse views, experiences and beliefs. However, even with the enormous amount of distinctive experiences, there is one that almost all of us share; most of us have, at some point, had a resident assistant (RA). In the coming weeks, the Maine Campus will be running a series of articles concerning the RAs of UMaine, how they work, how they feel about the RA role and what a day in the life might look like. Through a number of one-on-one interviews with the RAs themselves, the Maine Campus will be looking into just what it means to be an RA at UMaine.
The RAs (and Community Assistants for those residents of DTAV/Patch) are the backbone of resident life here at the University of Maine are the first resource for any student in trouble; they offer support, resources and, to an extent, a shoulder to cry on. That being said, despite how close they are with their residents, RAs actually make up the bottom tier of the Department of Resident Life (ResLife) hierarchy.
There are six housing complexes on campus, each made up of three and four dorm buildings. The names of each complex are usually acronyms; the complex of York, Aroostook and Kennebec, for instance, is referred to as the YAK Complex. Some are locations, like the Hilltop Complex or Stewart Quad.
Each of these complexes are run by a Residence Life staff member that is as unique as their residents. Some complexes have up to sixteen RAs, others barely warrant nine. Some floors in the buildings have two RAs, some have none at all. Every complex’s staff is comprised of a lead RA and an Assistant Community Coordinator (ACC). The lead RA works as a leader of the staff as well as a bridge between the RA staff and the ACC. Their tasks include planning the nightly 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. duty shifts for every night, attending Residence Hall Association and Council meetings and providing their staff with a voice, as well as many other tasks. They report to their ACC, who is the representative of the building in ResLife’s professional staff. They provide their boss, the community coordinator (CC), with a ground-level view of what’s going on in their buildings and complexes. The CCs report to the director of ResLife and are responsible for overseeing a few ACCs.
With RAs being the “boots on the ground,” so to speak, they have to be provided with extensive and professional training. RA training usually takes place two weeks before classes begin in September and a few days before classes begin in January. It usually involves policy training, diversity and inclusion training and something called behind closed doors, (BCDs), where professional staff act out situations for RAs to handle one on one. Some BCDs, including those dealing with sexual assault or self-harm can be rough. Some RAs have issues shouldering the burden of the tougher scenarios, and some have even had the same situations happen on a personal level. Throughout the year, to keep the RAs and their training up to date ResLife mandates between three and four in-service training sessions, which vary from training courses put on by ResLife to events such as the Tunnel of Oppression last year.
Even with all that training, the demands of the job can be stressful. As rewarding as it is for each RA to know they’ve done all they can to assist their own residents in getting through the year, being a shoulder to cry on or the safety net for as many as 70 students can be a lot. RAs are given four nights off each month that must be requested a week in advance, though the advance notice varies by building. If they don’t have time off, RAs must be back in their rooms by two in the morning, they must answer the door when someone knocks and they are encouraged to leave their doors open during their free time in order to make themselves available for anyone who might need them.
There are even academic demands. ResLife requires a minimum GPA of 2.5 from each RA. If this requirement is not met, they will ask the RA to resign as the department claims it considers the academic performance of the RA far more important than the resident assistant job itself.
All in all, even with the disagreeable students they may run into, the RAs and CAs of the University of Maine continue to excel at a job that is arguably one of the most demanding on campus. From providing emotional support to helping students figure out study times to even the little things like making sure everyone flushes, they do it all.
The Maine Campus will be discussing various topics within the RA position and breaking down topics such as payment, mental health, treatment, and more.