What does my RA do (and why do I need them)?
An RA is vital... but what do they do?
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
As a Resident Assistant, or RA, my sophomore year, I was amazed by how many of my friends had no idea what I actually did. It seems that most students entering college and a good deal of students already in college are confused by what their RA does. Well, let me start off by saying that every university emphasizes different aspects of Residence Life, and my experience as an RA for one year at JBU is simply that: just mine.
There are, however, some core tenants that every RA upholds. Each RA is given a basic recipe with approximately five simple instructions like “add some flour” and “don’t touch that hot stove.” These are the five things every RA does, regardless of the school they work for. Remember that your RA does these things to keep your hall sweet, not sour. I’ll call this RA recipe The Flavorful Five.
- They read the recipe. Every RA has to go through some kind of training to understand the rules of their school. One of the most encouraging parts of training was learning that every rule was made with the best interests of the students truly at heart. This is the knowledge that motivates most RA’s to do their job. Some other things your RA does during this phase is learn their residents’ names, and in some places like JBU, work to understand their resident’s personalities. Essentially, they are is preparing for what the year will be like.
- They prepare the kitchen. I’ll be honest, this is the part that most RA’s—and I suspect most chefs—would rather do without. We just want to cook/hang out! Before residents move in your RA is in charge of making sure the rooms and the hall is clean and that each room has keys. Decorating the hall falls into this step. This is a monumental task unless you’re like me and are lucky enough to have a co-RA who is would be the mascot of Crafting and Cleaning (if one existed).
- They put the menu on the table. The goal of this phase is to set a healthy standard of living for the entire dormitory and give an overview of important facts about the dormitory. Once the residents are back at school your RA ensures everyone knows the rules, such as quiet hours. All of their training is only useful if it is communicated to the residents, because the RA and the residents both need to use that knowledge. On top of that, most residents see their RA as the first responder to questions they have about campus.
- They turn music on while cooking. My parents always play Frank Sinatra while cooking. Similarly, your RA wants you to have fun because then they get to have fun! Hall events are almost always fun and not time consuming. Also, it simply makes sense to be friends with the people you live with. And don’t forget, your RA keeps the hall functioning by sending work requests for broken utilities. Hear that flush? It’s music to your RA’s ears.
- They clean their kitchen as they’re cooking. Ah, the most misunderstood aspect of RAs. Upholding rules and regulations is, in fact, a reason your RA is there. However, in most schools they do not take any disciplinary action but is merely there as a bridge and an advocate for the student to the Resident Director. Their primary job is to encourage an inclusive and safe environment on the hall, which everyone can and should benefit from.
Now that you have a better idea of what your RA does, don’t hesitate to get to know them. They run the rules, but they’re students first and foremost. Your friendship (and maybe a brownie every once and a while) will be both valuable and encouraging to them.