Officials are canceling the resident adviser program for the fall semester over safety concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an email sent to RAs Monday.
More than 130 students – 50 of whom intended to return to campus starting Friday – will not live at GW this fall as an RA, according to the email, which was obtained by The Hatchet. Stewart Robinette, the assistant dean of residential engagement, said officials decided to halt the program after weighing the health risks and added responsibility of RAs to enforce safety measures during the pandemic.
“This decision is one of the most painful that I have had to make during my career as we all care for you and enjoy seeing you succeed in your roles,” Robinette said in the email. “However, in the last week, as we assessed the RA program against the uncertainty of the fall, we kept coming back to our overarching goal of safety first for all students, including student leaders.”
The announcement comes the same week 50 RAs planned to come back to campus, according to the email. Robinette said officials planned to house 50 advisers with previous RA experience and focus on COVID-19 safety training after GW released its plan to remain online this fall, but they later decided to prioritize housing for students with extenuating circumstances.
Fewer than 400 students whose applications to live on campus are accepted will be consolidated into residence halls, according to the email.
“The safety concern was that if we can’t [bring RAs back to live on campus] because it truly is the right thing to say only those that need to be in housing, especially with other aspects are coming into what all students are facing this year and being as successful as possible with their academics,” Robinette said. “How do we think about ‘okay, how do we mitigate some of those impacts?'”
Students who had not previously served as an RA were not invited back to campus but placed on a “preferred alternate list” for either the spring semester or fall 2021 depending on when GW returns to in-person learning, according to the email. If GW implements hybrid learning and the RA program can operate in the spring, officials will first fill residence hall assignments with those on the list, the email states.
Robinette added that RAs can opt into four different jobs in lieu of an adviser this fall, including a position with the Division for Student Affairs for both non-federal work study and federal work study students or working as a summer housing RA in summer 2021. Officials also offered students the choice to defer their RA position for the year and be automatically considered for the job next fall, he said.
In a separate email sent to the students who had been originally reconfirmed for an RA position this fall obtained by the Hatchet, officials said they will apply $400 to the students’ accounts to compensate for their last-minute travel cancellations or adjustments. The email states that students with extenuating circumstances could apply for campus housing by Monday at 6 p.m. and would still be allowed to move in between Aug. 7 to 9 as planned if they are unable to adjust their travel arrangements.
The email adds that students facing financial insecurities who return to campus this fall will receive a $3,000 housing rate to honor the RA role they planned to fill this fall, according to the email.
“We will be making decisions on a rolling basis, as we receive them, knowing that for those absolutely in need of housing, a quick decision is important,” the email states.