By Amber Moser
Arts and Features Staff Writer
Whether moving away for the first time or simply returning for the semester, living in college dorms can be very stressful for some students. There are people on campus who do their best to provide a comfortable and welcoming college experience to resident students. These individuals are known as resident assistants and programming assistants.
According to sophomore women, gender and sexuality studies student Morgan Silver — who also serves as a PA — there are differences between being an RA and a PA that are often misunderstood.
“I don’t get my own room,” said Silver, a sophomore. “I run hall council. I also get put on bigger programs and focus on the whole hall instead of just a part of it.”
Despite being in different positions, RAs and PAs tend to work closely with each other to ensure the best and most inclusive experiences they can for residents in each hall. Their efforts do not always pay off, though. Recently, Silver’s newest resident-board was vandalized by unknown students, an act which has become increasingly common in resident halls.
Undeclared sophomore student Harper Gande said this vandalism is not necessarily a new development.
“It’s always been a thing,” Gande said. “Some students don’t necessarily agree with the viewpoints that are being posted on the board so they think it is within their right to tear down the boards. It’s very disheartening.”
Gande has a theory on why board vandalism is becoming an increasingly common event, and it relates directly to the recent election of President Trump.
“UNCA is such a liberal campus and with the recent election, things have been kind of chaotic,”Gande said. “Students have been sort of at war with each other.”
Sophomore meteorology student Ryan Jenkins also said he believes the recent election has had a noticeable effect on student behavior.
“I think people are more motivated to show opinions, even through destructive ways like vandalizing boards,” Jenkins said.
Although board vandalism and disagreements between students present obvious difficulties, RA and PA work is more often a positive than negative experience according to sophomore literature major Chelsea Hofmann.
“The engagement with residents, the leadership role I have in my building, my fellow staff in Overlook Hall and making my bulletin boards are probably my favorite part of my job,” Hofmann said. “The pay and not having a roommate aren’t bad either.”
When hired as an RA, students are assigned their own double room and their housing costs are discounted for however many semesters they work in an RA role. Being an RA requires a large time commitment and a lot of behind-the-scenes work.
“Training is a huge part of the RA job that I feel like a lot of people don’t know about,” Hofmann said. “We move in early each semester to learn about policies and how to be a successful RA that semester.”
In addition to moving in early, RAs plan events for their residents, work on-call hours where they are available to help students and monitor who comes in and out of the building after 8 p.m.
“Programming is one of the most difficult parts of the job,” Hofmann said. “Coming up with educational and engaging things to do with residents is very hard sometimes, but once you figure out what your residents prefer, it gets a lot easier.”
According to Gande, though, the most important thing for RAs to remember is their job is more than a job; they are a support system for their residents.
While being an RA or PA may entail hard work, Jenkins said the job is worth the return even when things do not necessarily go as planned.
“If you want to be an RA, you have to have the expectation that you’re going to be dealing with things that aren’t necessarily comfortable or easy,” Jenkins said. “It’s not always like that, though. A lot of the time it’s just fun.”