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Res. Life needs to make a serious effort to improve transparency with RAs

At this time of year, the Residential Advisor (RA) positions are a hot spot on people’s minds. Applicants are frustrated and anxious, waiting for a decision date that seems unclear. Even returning RAs, who were told to expect decisions by last Saturday, are now told to wait until next week. This means that both new and returning RAs are not likely to have their assignments or rejections until right before spring break. This is problematic for everyone, but especially for the rejected applicants for a few reasons—namely, the fact that they will have to deal with rejection and disappointment right before spring break and they might have to scramble to find a housing backup well after the application period for housing has opened. While this is a major problem, it is not the only problem facing RAs right now.

Another event demonstrating the massive lack of transparency between Residential Life and RAs has arisen with the recent surprising news that Estabrooke would no longer be an option for housing next year. This news was a surprise that wasn’t announced until Housing sent an email. Every student, including RAs, were told at the same time. This becomes a problem very quickly since students who hear this news are likely to ask their RAs for clarification. This is how many of them found out about it for the first time. This announcement affects Balentine, Colvin, Estabrooke, and Penobscot Hall (BCEP) RAs, who suddenly have one less dorm option. It’s possible that the RAs living in the new Honors floors of York and Stodder may be counted as part of the BCP RA team. However, that wouldn’t really make sense. Only a portion of the buildings are used to house Honors students, and a building can’t be in two complexes at once.

Another problem arises from the inconsistencies with who they keep and fire as RAs. I have personally observed a competent RA be fired for vague and unclear reasons, while other RAs have displayed predatory behaviors that have gone unpunished when reported to Res. Life. Some RAs do not adequately perform their duties and go unpunished, while others are punished for insignificant reasons. While I understand a lack of leniency with certain policies, it’s never clear which policies will be enforced and for whom. This creates a conflicting environment, where some RAs worry that their best efforts may not be enough while others can skate by on the bare minimum.

All of these issues combine to create a blatant transparency issue. Res. Life and the University are not able to communicate pertinent information to those who must deal with their decisions. These changes should be made with the consideration of the student body. RAs act as a bridge between Res. Life and the general student body, but are not often asked to give input on the changes that affect them the most. Furthermore, it’s easy for them to feel unlistened to be in their position. The deadlines promised to RAs should be achievable and meetable, or else the entire system crumbles. RAs, who act as the in-house enforcers of residential policies, must be able to trust Res. Life and be subject to equal punishment when violating their own policies. Unfair firing and the general lack of clarity in communications create a perception of unreliability.

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