Resident Advisors: Friend or Foe?

We’ve all heard the stories. They begin with a Resident Advisor (RA) patrolling the halls, stopping at every door and listening for the slightest infraction. They end with a write-up and some very unhappy residents who claim that a violation of fill-in-the-blank was not, in fact, their fault. You also may have heard the stories of RAs who buy booze for residents (or drink with them) or who make themselves as unavailable as possible by staying behind a closed door all year.

While stories like these paint an RA as a “foe-of-the-floor,” many RAs do not deserve this reputation. In fact, RAs can be a useful tool for students living in the dorms. It’s a given that an RA, or a student in a leadership position who lives alongside residents, is responsible for making sure rules are followed. But what many students don’t realize is that an RA is much more than just an enforcer. RAs are trained to keep their residents safe and are constantly working to create an inclusive environment for all inhabitants.

There are many ways that an RA can be a great resource for first year students:

  •  RAs can help to create and maintain community standards

Living with a large group of people, all with different living habits and personal preferences, can cause disagreements and disruptions if living guidelines are not made. Many RAs work with their residents to create a list of “community standards” that residents on the floor must abide by (rules about noise, cleanliness of public restrooms, etc.). These rules help create a pleasant environment for all who live there.

  • RAs create events to help you meet new people on the floor and can help mediate arguments between roommates

Part of an RA’s job is to plan various floor-wide events throughout the year. They may be used as an icebreaker or just for fun, but either way can be used as a way to help you become familiar with your floormates. And, whether you’re rooming with your best friend or someone whom you have never met before, there is bound to be something that you two do not agree on. Many issues can be resolved between roommates, but if the problem escalates to the point where you feel you need a third party to intervene, RAs are there to listen to the issue and help you come up with a viable solution.

  • RAs know the ins and outs of the campus

As an incoming freshman, you don’t have enough experience on campus to know the best classes to take, new ways to put yourself out there, and all the educational resources that are available to you. Since an RA is a student just like you (and is much more familiar with the campus), ask him or her any question you may have. Even if an RA doesn’t know the answer to something, he or she will be more than happy to find out.

That being said, keep in mind that there are definitely RAs who fall into the “foe-of-the-floor” category. After all, where do you think all those stories come from? If you are unhappy with the way your RA is doing his or her job, you have every right to bring it up to a housing or resident director. A good RA can enhance the overall quality of your first year away from home, and a bad RA can make the dorm seem like a living hell. You have every right to make sure you experience the former.

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Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in News-Editorial Journalism with an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Emma enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and snuggling up on the couch with her cat, “Louie.” She also spends her time volunteering and hanging out with family and friends.
Emma Weissmann

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