R.A.s have more responsibilities than you think

Posted on January 28, 2013 in Perspectives
By Spencer McBreairty

Alex Greenlee | The Free Press

An RA’s first thought every morning is never, “I’m an RA.” Instead, like every other student, we think of what homework assignment is due that day whether it’s a day at our internship or our job. Our schedules can be hectic, because we are also typical students. We are out in the USM community as student senators, Gorham Event Board members, admission staff, fraternity and sorority members and other positions as student leaders.

Even in training, RAs are told to focus on academics first. We have many of the same responsibilities that regular students have –– homework, jobs, socializing and internships. But on top of that, we also have duties as RAs. It’s a balancing act, and it can be a real challenge, especially for new RAs. For those who find a way to make it work, the benefits make up for the late nights. We may not get a check for our hard work, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful. Our housing costs are covered, though we live where we work as a compromise. Being an RA can mean waking up at 3 a.m. to let a resident into his room if he’s been locked out, mediating a conflict between roommates or documenting an incident that violates university policy.

Despite what you might have heard, the latter is not our favorite part. In my nearly four years at USM, I have never met an RA who enjoys that part of the job. No, we don’t have a quota to fill. We don’t target any student specifically. In fact, most RAs will tell you it sucks to document a violation because it means more paperwork and late nights spent working instead of sleeping. We’re still students after all, and we want to get to sleep and go to class like everyone else.

But RAs do provide an invaluable service to the USM community. Whether it be monitoring the building for safety and policy violations, aiding students in identifying campus resources or helping a resident into their room when they’re locked out in only a towel – we understand that it is still a job.

So, why do we do it? For me, it is a combination of resume building, campus involvement, and cost-saving benefits.

Although there are many benefits, we also deal with a fair amount of issues. Last year, the residential community at USM went through a very rough time. What I have seen, more as a student than an RA, is how strong the sense of community can be when everyone puts their all into it. It’s easy to walk away from a tough residential situation and go it on your own. It takes real courage and strength to persevere in the face of adversity and come out better on the other side.

From time to time in my USM career, I have thought of transferring. Working as an RA is not all rainbows and butterflies – it’s a tough job, and sometimes it’s just another strike against our sanity. But when I get to know the people I live with and I get to see the friendships and community they’re building, it’s hard to see myself anywhere else.

People can criticize the Gorham campus for not being as updated as it should. But in the end, our residential campus is a part of what makes this school great. Even when they are united against their residential staff, students form bonds here. They come to RA events, use their RA as a resource and ask us to let them into their rooms or to use the kitchen. We do that, and in a small way it makes a difference. If my actions, in one way or another, can help foster a sense of community and inclusiveness, I would say it’s a job well done.