On Resident Assistants

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mayhaps
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On Resident Assistants

Postby mayhaps » Tue Mar 20, 2012 3:02 am UTC

Hi all,
I just got a job as an RA (Resident Assistant) next year in a four-class dorm, and I was wondering if anyone had any experiences they wanted to share related to it. That could be suggestions for me, complaints, hopes, anything! -- really what I'd love to hear is what details you loved about your past RAs or what you'd wish your RAs had done.

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TheKrikkitWars
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Re: On Resident Assistants

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Thu Mar 22, 2012 8:20 pm UTC

mayhaps wrote:Hi all,
I just got a job as an RA (Resident Assistant) next year in a four-class dorm, and I was wondering if anyone had any experiences they wanted to share related to it. That could be suggestions for me, complaints, hopes, anything! -- really what I'd love to hear is what details you loved about your past RAs or what you'd wish your RAs had done.


At some point, you're going to have a really bad day then have to deal with someone who's slightly out of order, at which point you'll unjustifyably go off at the deep end and put the fear of god into them... When this happens, be honest and magnanimous about it, appologise for getting carried away, explain what the actual problem you had with them is and if you really went over the top buy them a pack of tinny's or something (This might not be allowable/legal in the US?).

The thing I appreciated most about my own warden was that he understood my point of view and rather than just tell me that I couldn't do [x] or couldn't keep [x] in my halls building, he'd instead suggest things I could do such that he wouldn't be obligated to get on my back about it...
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HTML Mencken
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Re: On Resident Assistants

Postby HTML Mencken » Fri Mar 23, 2012 10:17 am UTC

My job is somewhat similar to an RA (my students are slightly younger, and I have additional responsibilities, but this is meant to be "University style accomodation"), so perhaps my experiences can help:

A good 90% of your job will be dealing with people who forgot their keys. If you do not have a policy for charging people who forget their keys, you might want to bring this up at a staff meeting, as the cost of $40 or so can often help concentrate the memory.

Keep a pile of leaflets from local doctors, pharmacies, bus and train timetables and other basic services with your paperwork or in the nearest common room. A map with these necessary services highlighted and pinned up may also be helpful.

How do you communicate with the other RAs? I would suggest using emails, along with weekly meetings to discuss any particular issues. It may also be a good idea to include the building administration in such meetings, if you do not already. If your responsibility involves reporting maintenance issues, this would be a great place to bring them up (email copies to the administrative office though, so you have an electronic record you can refer to).

This is an important one: when you are off duty, be completely off duty. Turn your phone off, leave the building, go somewhere else and do something else. One of the downsides to living where you work is that you can sometimes feel like you're not off-duty, even if you're not working.

Is your building non-alcohol? If so, I would strongly recommend if you have to shut down any parties, make sure you do so with another RA present, and with the police on speed dial. We have somewhat of an unusual situation where I am, because my school rents several floors of a building from a University accomodation provider, and the rest of the building is actually populated by University students. We have rules about alcohol on the premises, even for those of legal age, whereas the University accomodation does not. As such, at weekends, the University students frequently hold alcohol-fuelled parties, and sometimes our students attend. We've busted them enough times for them to mostly look at going elsewhere if they want a drink, but shutting down a party can be a tense experience, especially depending on how late it is and how much alcohol has been consumed. If ever the situation looks like it is beyond your handling, do not hesistate to pass it off onto the police.

I would not spend too much time on preparing social activities, if that falls under your duties. Most people will not attend, and there are venues which will always be superior to what you can organise. If your employer insists, then do it, but do not push yourself too hard, as attendance will always be terrible. The only exception to this will be at the start of the academic year, when you might want to concentrate on a few activities which will get people to socialise.

I'll try and think of more, but for now, those are the major things that come to mind.

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Re: On Resident Assistants

Postby Puppyclaws » Fri Mar 23, 2012 12:51 pm UTC

HTML Mencken wrote:A good 90% of your job will be dealing with people who forgot their keys. If you do not have a policy for charging people who forget their keys, you might want to bring this up at a staff meeting, as the cost of $40 or so can often help concentrate the memory.


You can also make people hate you intensely if you do this (and make people with memory and anxiety issues entirely freaked out), so maybe think twice. YMMV, all that.

would not spend too much time on preparing social activities, if that falls under your duties. Most people will not attend, and there are venues which will always be superior to what you can organise. If your employer insists, then do it, but do not push yourself too hard, as attendance will always be terrible. The only exception to this will be at the start of the academic year, when you might want to concentrate on a few activities which will get people to socialise.


This is highly dependent on the environment that you're in. Some schools are like this, and some schools are not. I agree that you shouldn't push yourself too hard on these, though, it can be a huge letdown to put something together like this and have five people show up. OTOH, if the school encourages group-bonding in dormitories in some way (like how some school do "houses") you may find that there is a lot of comraderie in these events; still, it tends to spring somewhat naturally in those cases, so I'd agree that you don't want to overdo it...

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mayhaps
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Re: On Resident Assistants

Postby mayhaps » Sat Mar 24, 2012 7:28 am UTC

TheKrikkitWars wrote:At some point, you're going to have a really bad day then have to deal with someone who's slightly out of order, at which point you'll unjustifyably go off at the deep end and put the fear of god into them... When this happens, be honest and magnanimous about it, appologise for getting carried away, explain what the actual problem you had with them is and if you really went over the top buy them a pack of tinny's or something (This might not be allowable/legal in the US?).
I certainly hope that doesn't happen! But I can definitely see how the stress of the job, plus school, plus regular life might cause it to. You're right - it wouldn't be legal to buy beer, but I could do something else nice.


HTML Mencken wrote:A good 90% of your job will be dealing with people who forgot their keys. If you do not have a policy for charging people who forget their keys, you might want to bring this up at a staff meeting, as the cost of $40 or so can often help concentrate the memory.
Hmm... I think a typical house rule has been to allow one lock-out per quarter, and for any more after that, students have to write a poem/song or draw something for the RA and present it in front of the other students. Achieves mostly the same effect as monetary charges, without any resentment - just a little effort and embarrassment.


HTML Mencken wrote:Keep a pile of leaflets from local doctors, pharmacies, bus and train timetables and other basic services with your paperwork or in the nearest common room. A map with these necessary services highlighted and pinned up may also be helpful.
...
This is an important one: when you are off duty, be completely off duty. Turn your phone off, leave the building, go somewhere else and do something else. One of the downsides to living where you work is that you can sometimes feel like you're not off-duty, even if you're not working.
Both great ideas that I hadn't thought of, thank you!


HTML Mencken wrote:How do you communicate with the other RAs? I would suggest using emails, along with weekly meetings to discuss any particular issues. It may also be a good idea to include the building administration in such meetings, if you do not already. If your responsibility involves reporting maintenance issues, this would be a great place to bring them up (email copies to the administrative office though, so you have an electronic record you can refer to).
We will have weekly meetings, probably communicate mainly by email and group-text each other for more urgent things. I'll check about the building admin, though I think most students are responsible for reporting their own room's maintenance needs.


HTML Mencken wrote:Is your building non-alcohol? If so, I would strongly recommend if you have to shut down any parties, make sure you do so with another RA present, and with the police on speed dial. ...shutting down a party can be a tense experience, especially depending on how late it is and how much alcohol has been consumed. If ever the situation looks like it is beyond your handling, do not hesistate to pass it off onto the police.
This is what I am most nervous about. I've never been in such a situation before. It's definitely good to keep in mind that I have backup, so to speak, with both co-RAs (who are male) and the police. The school tends to be pretty lenient about their alcohol policies, emphasizing safety over everything else. Thankfully, the dorm I will be in is less of a party dorm, but you never know who will be there and what activities/atmosphere they will bring. Which will also sort of dictate how social events planning will go. It'll be four-class, so I want to make sure freshmen have opportunities to bond with each other and to meet upperclassmen, but I also want to allow the upperclassmen to have them own social lives while still feeling welcome in the dorm. How to do that, in practical terms, I'm not sure. I suppose just providing opportunities for get-togethers or off-campus outings with food involved would be both simple in my planning needs while still possibly being fun. Everyone loves free food, anyway. One of my co-RAs has pretty good ideas for social stuff (or so he says) so it should help being able to bounce ideas off others.

Thanks, guys!

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Re: On Resident Assistants

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:25 am UTC

Don't be a rule book humper; you're there to keep your residents safe, not to make sure they're complying with every dotted i and crossed t. Your residents will come to you for help if you show them you're someone who cares about their well being; they will endanger themselves avoiding you if you crack down on them every time you hear a peep from their room after quiet hours.
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HTML Mencken
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Re: On Resident Assistants

Postby HTML Mencken » Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:55 pm UTC

Puppyclaws wrote:You can also make people hate you intensely if you do this (and make people with memory and anxiety issues entirely freaked out), so maybe think twice. YMMV, all that.


Very true. On the other hand, being called out for the 20th time that day because someone has locked themselves out can lead to a frustrated RA, which probably isn't too good for the students either, in the long run. A poem/song sounds like a good compromise, though.

[quote=mayhaps]This is what I am most nervous about. I've never been in such a situation before. It's definitely good to keep in mind that I have backup, so to speak, with both co-RAs (who are male) and the police. The school tends to be pretty lenient about their alcohol policies, emphasizing safety over everything else. Thankfully, the dorm I will be in is less of a party dorm, but you never know who will be there and what activities/atmosphere they will bring.[/quote]

That doesn't sound too bad, given the school's attitude. I know if I had the choice, I'd say "so long as they're safe and not disturbing anyone, they can drink alcohol if they like". Izawwlgood's advice is good too - intervene if you have to, but try and keep a hands off approach most of the time. They'll resent constant interference, and if you are getting involved, then it suggests that something serious is happening and there could be trouble.


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