This blog series features different writers responding to the prompt, “What is the future of the RA role?”
Guest Post by Victoria Walsh, Professional Staff Member
When first reading the question, the word “obsolete” immediately came to mind. Now, many who know me would think: ‘Victoria, how could you say such a thing? You are a Residence Hall Director who joined this field for your love of the RAs, whose main responsibility is supervising, training, and developing said paraprofessionals.’ With my own personal feelings aside on the manner, all facts point to the RA role being dismantled. We are starting to see a large push at various universities where institutions are considering abolishing the RA role altogether, with some actually following through. At the end of the day, this move leaves many with a lot of questions: Why get rid of RAs? Who assumes the RAs responsibilities? Are we giving more work to the professional staff? Are you going to hire more professional staff? What does this mean for the future of the field? The questions are endless.
Some people may immediately jump to the assumption that doing away with the RA role means more money for that institution. This is not the case. While the RA role may be losing its footing in the field, the duties and tasks that RAs carry out are here to stay. With the RA role being broken down, student staff are being hired in smaller ways to pick up where RAs left off.
Each year more and more responsibility is placed upon the RAs. Given the position’s responsibilities, some institutions are reporting that they are seeing a decline in the number of individuals that want to even apply to be an RA. Some students have found that getting a job where you are able to clock in, work your shift, then clock out and be out of the position pays better, causes less stress, and allows them to have the social life at college that they want. Now ask yourself do you blame them? Look at the list of responsibilities we ask these students, mostly undergraduates, to fulfill:
- Serving in the on-call duty rotation which consists of walking the building/community to ensure safety and security
- Talking to, interacting with and building relationships and community amongst the residents in the building and community
- Administrative tasks: filling out duty logs, writing reports, filing paperwork, putting in maintenance requests, etc.
- Creating and putting on events and programs for students to attend
- Completing health and safety inspections
- Confronting policy violations and documenting students through the conduct system
- Working check-in and move-out of the residence halls
- Serve as leaders, role models, peer educators, peer mentors, academic advisors, resource referral, advocates
The list goes on and on and does not account for the unexpected. We ask our RAs to do all of that in addition to keeping up their grades, getting involved on campus in clubs and
organizations, handling responsibilities in their personal lives, and being undergraduate students themselves who are also in a time of developing and transitioning into adulthood. So, instead of asking, ‘why get rid of RAs?’, we should really be asking: ‘are we placing too much pressure on these students?’