2019.11.11.EMG.MAS.Housing office-3

The University Housing main office. (Madelyn Stellingwerf/Emerald)

Being a resident assistant can be an extremely rewarding experience. RA’s are given the opportunity to make meaningful connections with residents and fellow staff, while gaining valuable work experience in a high-pressure, real-life setting. However, RA’s can only perform as well as their work environment allows. 

On the University of Oregon Housing website, the RA position is described as a job that requires about 20 hours of work per week and can be demanding. Zari Crier, who was an RA for two academic years, felt that the work hours fluctuated quite a bit depending on the week. 

“Technically it is an accurate representation of the job. Some weeks can be 20 hours long and some weeks can also be less than that. Because of the nature of the position itself, it feels like you are constantly working,” Crier said. 

As an RA, you live where you work and your job description requires you to be there for your residents. Whether that be a quick 15-second chat in the hallway or a longer conversation with a resident, the job requires you to be “on”.

The Student Leader Council serves as the main body dedicated to advocating for RA’s; however, because the council is made up of overworked students, its effectiveness varies. During Crier’s years as an RA, he found that the group did not serve as an adequate voice for RA’s. 

“Technically you do have an avenue for RA’s to voice grievances. Depending on how that council is run, you might or might not be heard,” Crier said. 

Several sources did not want to partake in this story or requested anonymity in fear of retaliation from UO Housing. One anonymous source who worked as an RA during the 2017-2018 academic year still remains cautious about sharing their experience with University Housing. “UO Housing views its employees as expendable because people look at the promotion behind it and think, ‘wouldn’t free room and board be nice,’” they said. 

UO Housing and UO Communications did not respond to request for comment before the publication of this opinion column. 

Upon further inspection of the 2019-2020 Live-In Residence Life Student Leadership Position Contract, the Communications section of the document requires staff to “obtain permission to talk with the media.” Although the contract is not an NDA, it adequately served the purpose. 

Some RA’s have expressed need for greater personal support to help guide them through the unique stressors of the position. Depending on the dorm an RA works in, the job could present a greater challenge. 

Jozef Standow, who worked as an RA in Living Learning Center, described his stress level working in a “high-risk” dorm as “immense”. 

“There were a lot of conduct violations that happened pretty much every night,” he said.  Standow would frequently write up students for drinking, smoking and being too loud. “There were a lot more than the average instances of over intoxication like police having to be called, and you know this is all on a school night at generally pretty late.”

RA’s are dedicated to building and maintaining relationships with residents, ensuring their safety and providing support. But they can only be as effective as their working conditions allow them to be. Establishing a dependable direct line of communication between community directors, assistant directors and RA’s, being transparent regarding job requirements and greater investment in RA’s overall well-being would lead to a better living experience for both residents and RA’s.