By Claire Crittendon & Kaie Quigley – Co-Editor-in-Chief & Features Editor
Falling in line with the rest of campus, The Office of Residential Life (ResLife) was not immune to the effects of COVID-19.
Beginning with major personnel changes from last spring including Scott Lamphere stepping up to Director of Residential Life, a shift in Area Coordinators (ACs) and amount of students brought on as Resident Assistants (RAs), ResLife’s operations are looking quite different.
A notable change for Res Life was their relocation from Edwards Student Center to the second floor of Arnow, since their previous space is now being used for daily COVID-19 testing. As for RAs, their hours have been changed from starting at 9:00 to 7:00. Another new development is how residents may call an RA on duty by using the designated duty phone number for their specific area.
“This year has been tough for everybody,” said Area Coordinator Amanda Smolenski; “it’s just been really encouraging to see everyone doing their part and being really positive. And I think that positive outlook from all the students has made my life a little bit easier as an Area Coordinator.”
RA training traditionally consists of two weeks of in-person training in late August. This year however, the first week was conducted via Zoom, and the second was hybrid.
Returning junior RA Colleen Egan said, “[training] definitely wasn’t as fulfilling as last year was … with everything online it sort of lost that personal feeling. One of my favorite things last year was when [Title IX Coordinator] Jennifer O’Keeffe came and talked to us. And that really loses its whole appeal, you know, the personal side of it, when it’s over a computer screen.”
Egan continued, “The racial bias training and the Title IX training, those things have a different aspect in person because you can feel the energy of the room… [it’s different] when you have your microphones muted and your camera off.”
Rules and regulations regarding housing have to lead to increased feelings of isolation among students, first-years especially. To combat these feelings of loneliness, and relieve some of the stress induced by the pandemic, ResLife focused more on mental health training this year.
“We had to focus a little bit more on what kind of skills [to] teach the RAs about how to manage [their] own mental health and that of the students when we’re in a pandemic… Everyone’s a little bit stressed out and less than normal right now,” said Smolenski.
RAs have reported feeling as though they are “on the clock 24/7” regarding enforcing COVID-19 protocols whenever they exit their dorm rooms.
RAs’ duty shifts are conducted from their respective rooms, as opposed to the traditional “duty huts” in the common rooms of Vanwinkle, Ordway, Woodland, North, and Forest. This is to ensure compliance with Career Center regulations.
“I know how hard the ResLife staff worked to try and make [training] fulfilling, I think that they did the best they could with the situation and circumstances we’re in,” said Egan. “Be nice to your RAs, please. We’re tired.”