The office of Residence Life put RAs in the unenviable position of choosing between their personal well-being and their job last week. As a former RA, I am well aware of the job description and expectations that come with the position. But, after speaking with my recently fired, former colleague, I don’t remember the stipulation in the contract that says, as an RA, I have to worry about my job over my health.

Laura DeFrancesco ’08, a 21-year-old RA in Gonzaga Hall, attended an event at Yale University on Oct. 26 that included over 250 students from several universities. After the event, she participated with the rest of the of-age participants in socializing at the bar and dancing, while the under-age participants danced and enjoyed their own gelato bar. No under-age students were allowed to drink at the event.

After a while at the bar, DeFrancesco began to feel sick. She had not eaten much during the day’s activities. Upon returning to campus, she still felt ill and dehydrated. Rather than give her residents a chance to witness her ill, she decided to take advantage of the health services offered by the Health Center. This, apparently, was a poor choice, as it directly led to her termination from her position as a Gonzaga RA.

For any normal student, a voluntary visit to the Health Center is not a disciplinary matter. This is the concept behind extension 2241, your “ride to safety.” This is where a student is encouraged to visit the Health Center instead of sleeping off a few too many, without risk of a letter from the dean’s office. While the student usually has a medical follow-up meeting or maybe counseling, the matter is personal and confidential.

For an RA, it is apparently too much to expect these student rights to be respected. A personal health concern suddenly became the concern of Deborah Cady, director of Residence Life, to the point where making this seemingly responsible decision must have meant DeFrancesco no longer possessed the ability to perform her job as an RA.

DeFrancesco was not transported by Public Safety, documented by another RA or area coordinator, and was not taken to the hospital. She simply solicited the help of health professionals under her own discretion. She did not, in any way, violate the student code of conduct. Once again, she was of legal drinking age.

Nonetheless, she was terminated. Had she rolled the dice and gone back to her room to sleep it off, she might be on duty this weekend.

The underlying message from Residence Life here is very simple: Your personal health as an RA is less important than the reputation of our wonderful department. The “integrity of the position,” as stated in the contract, is so fragile that acting in a manner more responsible than most students can completely compromise it.

I understand that RAs are held to a higher standard than the average student, but to expect zero mistakes, to expect a student to not live through what the Jesuits call “teachable moments,” is an idealistic expectation that no RA can live up to. I know I wasn’t perfect in my two years as an RA either.

In the standard issue letter sent by Dean of Students Tom Pellegrino to each student as they turn 21, he implores students to reach out for help when they need it.

“If you find yourself in a predicament, please call and ask for help,” he writes.

This is unless you’re an RA, of course. Then you should save face for the department and suck it up.

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