Resident advisors gain valuable experience despite issues

By Patrick Wade

Grace Harriett, sophomore in LAS, clipped on her two-way radio and picked up her clipboard promptly at 7 p.m. on Thursday. She was the night’s on-duty resident advisor in Scott Hall.

“Scott Hall RA going on first rounds,” she said into the radio. And with a, “Peabody hears you,” from a voice on the other end, her night had begun.

“I’m a super-organized person, and I like helping people,” Harriett said.

It was not until a friend suggested that she get paid to be helpful that she considered being a resident advisor.

She made her first stop at an open door on the first floor.

“When people have their doors open, I like to stop in and say ‘hi,'” she said.

It just so happened that the first-floor residents were studying – prompting Harriett to hand out a few “study bucks.”

“You need to be not necessarily a big people person, but able to talk to someone,” she said.

Harriett made a quick stop outside to investigate a suspicious smell before moving on to the second floor. It just turned out to be a student smoking an aromatic cigar.

Andi Cailles, assistant director of housing for Residential Life, said that resident advisors are on duty every 10 to 13 nights and two or three weekends a semester, depending on the size of the staff. She estimates that resident advisors will typically work 20 hours a week.

“They will say that, most everyday, they are doing something related to their RA job,” she said.

Harriett said the job cuts into her social and academic life sometimes, but there are ways to work around it.

“It forces you to plan ahead,” Harriett said. She added that her mother had called her weeks ago to let Harriett know she was coming to visit this past weekend. Harriett made arrangements to make sure she had no obligations and could spend time with her family.

Harriett made a stop on the second floor to look at a billboard one of her fellow resident advisors had created. Scott Hall advisors are required to do two billboards a month, and the deadline to do September’s had just been a few days before.

“I try to do a fun one and an educational one,” Harriet said of her billboards. This month, one of her billboards is about healthy relationships and sexual abuse, and the other is a comparison of the cold versus influenza.

Resident advisors do receive compensation for the work they do. Cailles said each resident advisor is given a single room, assuming there is no overflow in the residence halls, and a meal plan consisting of 4,500 café credits and 10 classic meals a week. New advisors also receive a $105 monthly stipend and returning advisors receive $125 a month.

“The professional development of the experience far outweighs what they actually make, if you were to average out the total cost of their compensation package,” Cailles said.

Applications for those wishing to be resident advisors or multicultural advocates are currently available at the University Housing Web site. The deadline to apply is Oct. 19. Applicants will also be required to shadow a current resident advisor for one night and be formally interviewed on Nov. 9.

“It’s a very competitive process,” Cailles said.

She added that University Housing receives about 380 applications every year but will only hire about 85 new advisors. There are anywhere from 100 to 120 total positions on campus.

Drew Nannini, freshman in LAS, is applying for a resident advisor position next year.

“I like helping people out, and I know that if I live in an apartment I can’t really do that,” he said. “I want to be active.”

After checking the third and fourth floors for open doors and anything out of place, Harriett made a final stop in the room of a fellow resident advisor to hang out before beginning her next rounds.

“Scott Hall RA finished with first rounds,” she said into the two-way radio.