One of the main incentives for most resident assistants (RAs) to take the position is the pay. Unfortunately, the University of Maine is somewhat behind the times when it comes to their payment plans. Other schools have moved ahead of UMaine with the compensation offered to their RAs, improving what they receive in exchange for an extremely challenging, and at times unrewarding, job.
The University of Vermont and the University of New Hampshire both offer the same compensation to their RAs as UMaine, but as you move further south, the benefits of being an RA get better and better. Similar to UMaine, Providence College offers staff members a bi-weekly paycheck totaling the same cost as their room and board fees. Though the payment is roughly equal to that at UMaine, if students already have scholarships covering their housing costs, a paycheck is extra cash in their pocket.
At the University of Rhode Island, RAs are offered free room and board plus a stipend equal to the cost of their meal plan. The University of Connecticut pays housing for RAs as well as a $4,100 stipend paid out bimonthly.
For comparison, the compensation for each UMaine RA is paid room and board provided by the university, with lead RAs receiving an extra $1000 per year paid out in monthly installments of about $125 each. Assuming the average RA pays out-of-state tuition, the highest tuition cost at UMaine, and works 20 hours a week, the pay per hour comes out to around $23 per hour, given the Unlimited Flex Plan and single room costs, plus days off. The Department of Residence Life claims the job only takes up 20 hours a week but, as students who have had experience as an RA will tell you, the job often takes up far more time. In fact, many would tell you that it requires them to be on-duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, minus the four days a month they can take off, so the 24-hour workday for RAs isn’t even really a point of contention.
If you’re an RA and there’s a knock on your door at three in the morning, you’re required to open it. If you’re in the bathroom at nine in the morning brushing your teeth and someone bursts in and vomits in the stall behind you, you’re responsible for handling the situation. If you have to call the UMaine Police Department at midnight because someone’s neighbors are being too loud, that’s more paperwork for you. In fact, the Department of ResLife has even asked RAs to keep an eye out for policy violations, some as simple as smoking, that are happening anywhere on campus, especially outside of the RAs’ assigned building. With all that, the pay per hour drops to about $2.73, an absurdly low number for an absurdly overworked student employee.
RAs have been called back to campus from dates, told they couldn’t attend family gatherings because of ResLife events and had nights off retracted with little to no notice. Granted, it’s an important job, arguably one of the most important on campus, but denying an employee the right to separate their work and personal life is absurd. It’s illogical and unreasonable to argue that a job that requires you to live where you work could ever possibly only demand 20 hours a week and come with the compensation of a part-time job.
All in all, given the amount of work each resident or community assistant puts into their residents, floors and communities, it certainly seems that RAs deserve better pay than $2.73 per hour, a pay rate lower than any federal minimum wage ever set. Of course, UMaine has to make some kind of profit, and demanding a $4,000 stipend might be a little absurd. But even Rhode Island College, a school with a thousand fewer students than UMaine, can afford to pay their RAs an extra $100 per semester on top of room and board.
When all is said and done, the Department of Residence Life asks too much and gives too little. From nights spent on the floor in the New Balance Recreation Center with only a half-hour warning to spending two weeks in a training session that doesn’t cover the bare essentials, the Department of Residence Life owes its RAs a lot more than a few bucks an hour.