RAs look to officials for answers about new position responsibilities

Media Credit: Jack Fonseca | Contributing Photo Editor

Several RAs said their requests to question officials about the contract in meetings this fall have been left unanswered.

Resident advisers are pressing housing officials to explain why a slew of contract changes that went into effect this spring are necessary.

RAs now conduct night-time rounds and serve “on-call” shifts between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., during which RAs are required to be available in case of an emergency in their residence halls. But several RAs said they were not informed of the changes before accepting their positions, and their requests to question officials about the contract in meetings this fall have been left unanswered.

Housing officials implemented the additional responsibilities through training during a 10-hour-long online course at the beginning of the academic year, Assistant Dean of Residential Engagement Stewart Robinette said.

Robinette said the contract changes aim to help RAs be more present in residence halls than they have in past years and build community within each residence hall. Previously, only GWPD officers patrolled residence halls at night, and RAs were not required to hold a specific number of community events, he said.

“These enhancements represent the continuing evolution of GW’s residential program and follow the example of peer institutions by providing more structure for the RA’s presence in the halls,” Robinette said in an email. “This presence helps build strong communities and provides more opportunities for RAs to support and provide resources to residents.”

He declined to say how RA feedback was incorporated when officials decided which aspects of the job to change and how the changes will affect the safety and security of on-campus residents.

RAs said the new responsibilities have disrupted their schedules, and transitioning to the meal plan instead of the stipend has made paying for other expenses, like phone bills, difficult. Five RAs declined to comment and 10 did not return requests for comment.

Kayleigh Calder, a junior and an RA at 2109 F St., said RAs have been raising concerns about the position’s new duties to their area coordinators in meetings and during RA trainings that took place prior to the fall semester.

“I love being an RA, but it seems like a larger time commitment than I anticipated it being, and that’s really big, especially when I have to work another job and I’m not getting paid for the RA position because the stipend is not there anymore,” Calder said.

Calder added that while completing rounds once per week allows her to engage in casual conversations with residents, housing officials have not informed RAs about why GWPD officers are no longer patrolling halls after the RAs asked during training.

“The relationship between GWPD and residents is definitely strained, and I don’t think that taking them out of the equation is going to help that relationship,” Calder said.

Aaron Madrid Aksoz, a senior and an RA in JBKO Hall, said the changes in RAs’ responsibilities confused him because officials have not explained why they implemented the changes.

He said RAs met with Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President Mark Diaz during training to voice concerns to him about the new responsibilities and facilities issues in residence halls, like mold outbreaks.

“These new implementations in the resident adviser model were just poorly planned and executed,” Madrid Aksoz said. “I think that they had good intentions with all of these additions, but they just didn’t think through all the unintended consequences that would come through with them.”

He said officials like Cissy Petty, the vice president of student affairs and the dean of students, should interact more with RAs to get feedback about what improvements can be made to residence halls.

“The sense that I and many other resident advisers feel is that it doesn’t matter what we say, because we’re not the decision-makers,” he said. “They’re not taking our perspective into account when they’re making these decisions.”

An RA, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the University, said RAs asked Diaz about why the new responsibilities were added, but Diaz was not prepared to give answers.

“He wasn’t answering the questions that are most pertinent to us,” the RA said. “Overall, I don’t think that the RAs had too great of an experience, although I will say that it was nice seeing a face from the administration actually come down and speak with us.”

She said housing officials did not clearly explain the new responsibilities during the application and training processes, which has led her and other RAs to put in more hours than they expected to when they applied.

“According to what our contract says, it’s supposed to be a ’20 hours per week’ kind of job,” she said. “But if you’re on-call twice a week, that’s already 24 hours, which I don’t think was really addressed as clearly as it should have been.”

Residence Hall Association President Trinity Diaz said the community rounds are likely aimed at helping students feel more at ease in their residence halls as opposed to having GWPD officers patrolling residence halls. Diaz said GWPD officers didn’t make her feel unwelcome in her residence hall, but their uniformed presence slightly intimidated her.

“When I came as a freshman and I saw GWPD walking the halls, I was always more prim and proper when I was walking straight,” she said. “Even if it was a Tuesday afternoon and I was heading back to my room and I was doing nothing suspicious.”

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