The Office of Residence Life extended the deadline for the Resident Assistant application twice this semester. The application was originally due on Jan. 28, the deadline was then extended to Feb. 1 and then extended again to Feb 7. For some, the extension alludes to a lower than expected group of applicants and further highlights issues within the Office of Residence Life.
Sophomore and RA in Jogues Hall, Pedro Garcia stated that he heard that the number of applications had been far less than previous years.
The Mirror reached out to the Office of Residence Life to confirm the number of applicants and further questions on three occasions, however they failed to respond in time for publication.
RA in the Barnyard Manor, Nwachukwu Ibekwe ‘22, agreed with Garcia’s statement on a low applicant turnout but didn’t know why specifically numbers would be so low this year.
“I would say the RA position has lost the prestige it once had on campus,” said Ibekwe. “This also goes for the treatment of RAs, as there has been growing dissatisfaction among the staff members on how they are treated by some professional staff.”
RA in 42 Langguth Hall, Chizimuzo Chibuko ‘22 stated that, “In my experience as being an RA, the retention rate has been pretty low as most of time about half of the RAs and AC they hire end up quitting before the end of the academic year.”
Chibuko adds that as of now, she doesn’t know the exact number of student applications, but “… it is obvious that the turnout hasn’t been great especially with the change in the deadline three times in one semester.”
Senior Jakob Matala is the third President of the Resident Assistant and Commuter Peer Assistant Council and RA in 42 Langguth Hall.
Matala stated that, “There are always some RAs, CPAs and ACs who do not plan to return, which is commonplace in Residence Life” but that, “Returning applications turnout has also been exacerbated because Covid-19 and students do not want to be an RA/CPA in a pandemic.”
“However, I believe that everyone who is an RA/CPA has their own unique experience in this position, and one’s experience can motivate or dissuade residents from applying and current RAs/CPAs from reapplying for the position,” Matala continued.
Senior Aarushi Vijay became an RA for the 2021-2022 school year in Jogues Hall, but left the position in January.
Vijay states that after she had COVID-19, the office did not lessen the workload and expected her to, “have stuff ready for the residents when I [got] out of quarantine.”
“There was no understanding from their side making the work environment toxic, and unfortunately, this is not new. They claim to understand but they never do that all the RAs are students before they are anything else. My illness just put things in perspective for me and I decided to leave,” said Vijay.
When asked how Res Life could be more supportive of RAs and CPAs, Vijay stated, “They can first get rid of the fluff language and actually act on the things promised.”
When asked what it was that Res Life “promised” Vijay stated that, “They continuously throw around the world ‘support’ without providing any. They promise they’ll provide that support but when time comes, we are left alone and have to advocate for ourselves with the central staff.”
Vijay believes that the low turnout is connected to the fact that students have seen from current RAs the “true condition of Res Life.”
Vijay finishes by stating, “The free room and board no longer entices the students because of the working conditions and how RAs are not actually paid, apart from a trivial stipend which does not justify the amount of time you put in this job, along with the mental stress that is put on the RAs.”
Garcia stated that the RA position is “a very complex position,” that “demands a great deal of leadership, responsibility and most important of all, energy.”
Junior and RA in Jogues Hall Alaina Tarallo shares similar sentiment with Garcia stating, “I love being an RA but it is not for everyone! The job requires a lot of patience, compassion and time. You really have to enjoy working with the residents and find a true purpose in that.”
“There are a lot of sacrifices involved,” Garcia continues, “But with these sacrifices come a lot of opportunities to grow as both a person and a leader. It will definitely vary from person to person based on their scheduled time commitments, ambitions, and financial situations, but for the right people — it certainly has a lot of merits. I would definitely recommend discussing it personally with a current RA before making a final decision.”
When asked if he knows of anything that would cause the low-turnout, Garcia states that, “While there is no way of knowing for sure, I feel like it is true to say that more people would apply for the RA position if there were more incentives as well as generally just a better word of mouth with the job.”
According to the Residence Assistant Job Description, RAs receive room and board plus a stipend that’s paid out at the end of each semester. New RAs receive $150, Advancing RAs receive $200 and Senior Resident Assistants receive $350.
Chibuko added that, “Overall, I wouldn’t say that the benefits of being an RA outweigh the cons.”
She states that though it’s great to have the free room and board, “…for such a long time this was used to excuse neglect of RA complaints and non concern for the mental health of RAs.”
“There has been some progress made since last semester after our major reflection about it but there is still a long way to go,” Chibuko adds, stating that, “There is still fear among RAs that presenting their complaints would lead to them being fired.”
Former RA Romel Maldonado ‘21 stated that having a low number of applicants was an issue when he was an RA as well, but the Res Life Office was still selective in who they choose.
“When I applied I remember it being very selective to get a position as an RA. But as the years went on and Res Life changed and became more chaotic they let more and more people through the application process,” Maldonado states, continuing, “I remember hearing nightmare stories of some staffs [residence halls] that just had incompetent RAs. I think they had a low number of applicants and that’s why they lowered the bar of who they let into being an RA.”
Maldonado continues that the low turnout might be due to the culture of the RA program in that it’s become “…a culture of always complaining about their job and how there wasn’t enough communication between the RAs and the Res Life central staff.”
Maldonado adds that, “I think RAs didn’t feel like their concerns were heard and decisions were made in vacuums” and morale was brought down after “some RAs were let go over minor things.”
“I think that combination made the RA role seem like it wasn’t fun or worth doing and that would eventually get out to the students who were thinking of applying and affect their decision to apply,” Maldonado added.
Chibuko seemed to agree with this sentiment and stated, “RAs are asked daily to sacrifice their academic life and mental well being for the sake of other students yet there is no obvious appreciation given to them. Everything seems to be too hard, including the possibility of increasing pay or hosting a formal RA awards dinner.”
Chibuko continued saying,“It has been this neglect of RAs that has led to severe dissatisfaction which has obviously bled out into the student population. RAs sacrifice so much for the job yet the administration does not recognize the actual worth of each one of us. RAs carry on work that, in my opinion, DPS and the other members of pro-staff are late to respond to.”
She does add that Res Life seems to be improving.
“There have been some new initiatives suggested by RAAC which Central staff has funded. We even had an RA Gala for the first time. However, there still needs to be more internal support in the community.” continued Chibuko. “There needs to be a revision of RA responsibilities so as to reduce the burden they carry in their daily lives. The RA job should aim to improve individual growth.”
If Res Life does respond after publication, it will be included in the online version of this article on fairfieldmirror.com.