Appreciate your resident adviser

By Kimberly Ngoh, Columnist

A resident adviser wears many hats — from coordinating events that cater to social, emotional or educational needs, to mediating conflict of varying degrees to even being a shoulder to cry on. Some students complete dorm life without communicating even an hour with their RA, while others use their RA as their greatest resource. If you were to step into the shoes of an RA, you would discover just how intense the job can get, and how their efforts are often met with a lack of appreciation from the students they are trying to support.

It can be easy to forget that, despite all these added responsibilities, an RA is still a student much like you. They have to commit time to finish homework, study for exams, resolve conflict in their personal relationships and do laundry. RAs have committed to playing mother hen to a bunch of college kids when they themselves have to do college too.

While they do receive a fair amount of compensation, most RA’s have a greater motivation than merely free meals and board: Being an RA requires an innate desire to serve others and make an impact on the lives of their residents, whether they obtain continuous validation, or not.

More often than not, University Housing manages to select a fitting team of leaders to fulfill these roles. These selected leaders have demonstrated their capabilities in providing a support system for a bunch of strangers who may not always respond to their emails about setting up a fire inspection or iConvo.

On top of all their obligations as a student, they have to chase after 19- to 20-year-old students just to check in to make sure they’re doing well in school. And yet, when asked “What makes a good resident adviser?” some people respond with “Don’t be a snitch,” or “Don’t do iConvos.” And, worse still, “Just try to stay out of the way.”

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Aside from looking absolutely stellar on one’s resume, being an RA remains a difficult job, often tied to time and frustration. Even if an RA realizes this isn’t the job for them, they still have to show up for meetings, put on a smile and be there for their residents.

They probably knew what they were signing up for — organizing hall meetings that may not always receive full attendance, having to stay in their room most of the time to monitor the hall and enduring awkward conversations with a myriad of students. It would be nice for their struggles to be considered and hard work appreciated, as opposed to being told to stay away.

It can be the little things: sometimes our RAs take the time to leave a small gift or note taped to our doors, whether to celebrate a holiday or just as encouragement. It would be nice to see that this was well received, as opposed to ignored and left hanging on the door for days until it eventually falls off.

iConvos may not be a top priority when we’re already drowning in the unrelenting torrent of school work, but it’s not like our RAs adore having to force us into telling them about our lives. It would be helpful if they did not have to send us emails or catch us on our way back from the shower to attempt an iConvo for the fourth time or work around your schedule to set up a two-minute fire inspection.

In addition, the name tags they dutifully take time out of their summer or winter break to craft should not be mistreated and found torn in the trash can. In the same way, the labor they put into decorating notice boards aimed at improving one’s mental health or time management should be appreciated and not vandalized or dissed openly. If there’s something on it that you disagree with, it can be brought up for discussion in private.  

There are so many other ways of showing our appreciation for all that they do for the floor, but the above underlines the least we could do in giving back to a community the RAs have chosen to devote a part of their lives to. We should treat them with respect and cultivate ways to show our gratefulness for their commitment to make an impact on our residential life.

Kimberly is a junior in Engineering.

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