Resident assistants babysit on-campus adults

UNC Asheville resident assistants help students move their belongings into dormitories.   Photo courtesy of UNC Asheville On Campus Housing.
UNC Asheville resident assistants help students move their belongings into dormitories.
Photo courtesy of UNC Asheville On Campus Housing.

Cassidy Fowler
Sports Staff Writer
cfowler@unca.edu

UNC Asheville resident assistants help the dormitories run smoothly, but when RA’s were asked about their positions, some found they were thrust quickly into a job that was not all it was cracked up to be.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a resident assistant is a trained peer leader who supervises those living in a residence hall or group housing facility.

One RA has had the job for three years at UNCA and enjoys it.

“I wouldn’t have done it for three years if I didn’t like it,” said Jessica Wlodarski, a senior psychology student from Pinehurst, North Carolina.

But with every major responsibility comes a conflict.

According to USA Today, RAs have two set duties: to enforce college policies, procedures,values and to build community through educational programs and forms of team-building.

A problem arises with this, according to USA Today, as the two often contradict each other.

A former RA, keeping the job for one semester, agrees with the latter.

“I personally did not really enjoy being an RA that much,” Felix Stith, a Junior environmental science student, said. “My personality did not fit super well,” he said, playing with his septum piercing.

Stith, an Asheville native, said he didn’t enjoy how powerful the position was. He felt he was babysitting his residents, instead of working with them.

Wlodarski, a Mills Hall RA, said she doesn’t mind all of the duties, but notes that the job is hectic at times because of the responsibility.

“You can have a week where not very much happens and you don’t have to do much,” Wlodarski said. “Then you have a week where you’re getting all these calls and incidents and you’re working desk and phone as well. It can go from zero to 100 real quick.”

Wlodarski and Stith both said a lot has to be completed by the RAs to keep the residence hall in order.
The duties include regular meetings, office hours, phone duty, desk duty, programming and Student Success Link.

Wlodarski and Stith said Student Success Link is a bi-weekly, online report that RAs fill out with general information about their residents’ lives.

Student Success Link has questions about issues a resident may have involving their social lives, family and vacations.

Wlodarski said she enjoys Student Success Link because the chart is a useful tool. Stith said he did not like filling out SSLs because they are an invasion of privacy.

Wlodarski said she uses SSL to ensure that all of her 44 residents on her floor are doing well and are getting the help they need.

“If someone is doing really well at the beginning of the semester and now you no longer see them around, you realize you should go check on them,” Wlodarski said. “But a lot of people think that having it written down is just too permanent.”

Stith said he became an RA to help residents, not watch them, which is why he didn’t like Student Success Link.

Stith said he used SSL because it was his job, but he protested it along with other RAs, during open talks in meetings.

Wlodarski and Stith, along with all other RAs, said they were told to report any issues found on their resident’s social media sites during their bi-weekly report.

Wlodarski and Stith said they followed the same personal policy, allowing their residents can add them on social media, but they wouldn’t seek them out.

Instead of going the social media route, Wlodarski and Stith said they just talked to their residents to get the information they needed and to get to know their residents.

“I guess I knew policy enforcement was a part of it,” Stith said, “but I didn’t think it was such a big part of it.”

According to USA Today, the paradoxical relationship RAs have between community building and rule enforcement hurts both goals.

While this method of monitoring students works for some, like Wlodarski, the job didn’t sit well with Stith, causing him to leave his position as a resident assistant.

“I just wasn’t good for that position,” Stith said, “and it wasn’t good for me.”

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