Recently, positions for resident assistants (RA’s) have opened up to new applicants after a number of RA’s were either dismissed from their position or chose to step down.
The position of RA is considered a leadership role with job-like components. Associate director of residence life for residential education, Lord Edwin Carreon, explained it as “a para-professional position.”
All RAs sign a leadership agreement after they are chosen for the role. This includes general expectation from the office of Residence Life such as recognizing that they are a role model, knowing how to address policy violations, following community standards and federal and state laws as well as developing respect for their residents.
“Like any job, we have expectations and it is important to let them know what we look for,” said Carreon.
Former RA, sophomore Maria Natalia Sikombe, said the rules stress how they are there to serve the community and that they must make the residents feel that they are safe while living on campus. Other rules include that an RA may not drink with a resident under 21 or be in a romantic relationship with a resident in the hall or the building.
“Within a month of the job, they expect you to internalize the rules,” said Sikombe. There is a protocol regarding addressing issues that may arise and Sikombe explained that an RA may have to take a different approach depending on the situation, whether it be sexual harassment, alcohol or drugs.
Sikombe was an RA in Hamlin on the third floor with Beta Theta Pi and Gamma Phi Beta. “I didn’t know much about Greek Life. I had to break down barriers because building relationships is important.”
Carreon explained the RA’s set their own expectations on the processes and procedures and maintain the integrity of the position. RA’s may either be dismissed, where they are referred to as “no longer an RA” or they may choose to step down. “Because we treat this as a para-professional position, we don’t disclose why an RA is no longer in a position,” said Carreon. Residence Life also does not disclose how many RA’s are no longer in position.
In the case of stepping down, an RA may do so for personal issues, feeling they need to focus on academics or in as Sikombe’s case, she said, “I felt I wasn’t reaching my full potential. It was taking a toll on me and it wasn’t the place for me at the time.”
She explained being an RA using the concept of a fishbowl. “You are always being watched. You should be an example and always be aware you have a responsibility on campus. It is a highly demanding job and there is no stopping.”
“We empower staff members to engage in honest reflection about themselves as RA’s and students. As an educator, I must support their decision to prioritize,” said Carreon.
RA’s have bi-weekly meetings with the area coordinator to discuss how they think they are doing. They must submit bi-weekly reports on how their progress and address any issues they may have. Sikombe discussed with her Area Coordinator on whether or not to stay. “I think it is a fair process, I was given a good amount of time to reflect,” Sikombe said.
In terms of dismissal, there is a three step process known as the progressive action process that the Office of Residence Life takes. After the RA’s have had conversations over time about a mistake they have made and no change has been made, then they are given a written notice. If the behavior continues, then they are put on probation. Finally, if there is no change, they are dismissed. This process is not necessarily linear as several mistakes can lead to one written warning, whereas one major mistake can lead straight to dismissal.
“Mistakes happen and we work with them. It is a rare situation where an egregious mistake would cause us to question whether or not they can continue in the position,” Carreon said. Dismissal is due to under-performing or an RA conducting themselves in a way unbecoming of an RA.
When an RA is going to be dismissed, the Area Coordinator speaks with Carreon about any concerns regarding an RA. The decision is ultimately made by the Area Coordinator, the heads of hall, and Carreon. “Out of deference to other staff members who follow protocol, we have to hold that staff member accountable.” Carreon continued, “The process of dismissing a staff member is difficult but it is still a chance to reflect on behavior and how their actions impact others.”