Investigative Report: Could there be better communication with RAs? Reply

By Casey O’Brien — News Editor

Kia Rivera went to retrieve her laundry and noticed the washer had a pool of water inside, causing colors to run and ruin some of her clothes.

Why was her laundry ruined? Because the washing machine was broken.Why had nothing been done about it?

“I wrote a note to my RA because he was gone for the weekend, and later in the week, there was a note giving me a number to call. But that’s the RA’s job, not mine,” said Ri­vera, a sophomore.

The broken washer was just the tip of the iceberg. Each resident has a Resident Assistant, or RA, in their building. Residents are encouraged to go to their RAs with problems, but if they do, do their problems get fixed? Or do the residents avoid their RAs?

The definition of a Resident Assistant, according to, is “a student who lives in a university residential facility and acts as a resource for the students on their floor or in their area of the building. RAs play a key role in creating an environment for residents that is conducive to academic, personal, and social growth.”

The website also said “RAs develop social, academic, and cultural activities for their resi­dents. A RA is a friend, resource, mentor, role model, and community leader in their hall.”

Do residents not respect RAs?

Could the reason behind miscommuni­cation stem from many residents’ belief that their RA is not up to snuff? Based on the definition of an RA on http://www.residentassis­, some residents feel their RA does not meet these requirements.

“I think they can be all of those things, but from my experience, they’ve only been a friendly resource,” said Laura Justice, a sophomore. “Be­cause they are so close in age to us, I don’t think of them as a role model, though.”

An RA can be hired as of their sophomore year, which can make an RA only a year or two older than residents, and in rare cases, they could even be younger than them. This can make it dif­ficult for residents to respect their RA.

Sophomore Molly Brennan is going to be an RA in the fall of 2012, and thinks the defi­nition can be molded to whatever Residential Life prefers. “I also think that the term RA can be intimidating, and residents do not al­ways know how to approach them, which can create a disconnect on the whole friend and mentor thing,” said Brennan.

Do residents not go to the RA for help?

One weekend in February, the two toi­lets on the second floor of Carpenter were out of order. Both toilets had stopped work­ing, along with the downstairs restroom, and two residents were forced to go into another building to use the bathroom.

The residents were frustrated that nothing had been done; however, could they have fixed the problem? The telephone number for Build­ings and Grounds is listed in several of the bath­rooms throughout the house; the number can be called for household fixes, one of them being the toilets. If all else fails, sending an email to the RA works as well and takes just a few minutes.

If a resident encounters a problem in their building, they are encouraged to seek out their RA. However, in this situation, this may be a vari­ation of the “Bystander Effect.”

The Bystander Effect is a phenomenon when onlookers notice a problem, but do not aid because they think someone else will or already has addressed the problem, ac­cording to

In the bathroom situation, the Bystander Effect applies to students believing others had called Buildings and Grounds, and help was on the way. It kept spiraling until no one called, and perhaps the RA didn’t even know it was a problem.

Jo Bishop, a senior RA in Carpenter, agreed that some residents do not inform her of problems. “I think that some residents are unaware that their RA is always there for them, no matter what the situation.” she said. “I know that when I was a freshman, I never wanted to go to my RA with my issues because I thought that I would be bothering them.”

Bishop stressed the importance of going to the RA when something goes wrong. “No matter what hour, the RA is always going to be there for their residents if they are in their building. Your RA may not look the happiest at 3 a.m. when you knock on their door, but they are going to help the resident solve any issue they have.”

What happens when students commu­nicate with RAs?

When a resident communicates with the RA, problems are resolved faster and a solid relationship begins to form between the stu­dent and RA. Most students expect a prob­lem to be solved quickly; however, there is a process RAs must follow.

“We put in a work order through Foot­Prints. The order is then sent to Buildings and Grounds,” said Bishop. “Once the order is fin­ished and everything is fixed, the RA who put the order in will receive a confirmation that the work has been completed.”

Is the overall view of the RA negative?

It would seem as though many residents view RAs as a negative role. They are author­ity figures who can get them in trouble, and perhaps the close proximity in age makes students scornful of their position of power.

The negative view also stems from the resi­dents’ experiences. If they have a good RA, they will think of RAs as positive. If they have a bad experience, RAs will be thought of negatively.

“There are always going to be people who are good at the job and who aren’t. From my experience, I have had RAs who were not really around, which could be con­sidered as a bad RA, and RAs who have been there if there was an issue,” said Brennan. “It depends on how the RA connects with their residents, and whether it is a respected rela­tionship or not.”

Busy schedules can also sometimes hin­der RAs from doing their best in their roles. “I know that most RAs try to do the best that they can all of the time but we are students, just like everyone else,” said Bishop.

There could be better communication be­tween the RA and the student, but it goes both ways. The RA can help the residents out more if students speak with them, and if the student speaks up, the positive RA relationship will be­gin. Developing a positive relationship between the Resident Assistant and residents is one that is built on communication above all else.

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