What Your Resident Advisor Won’t Tell You

Angelica Degnan is a current junior and has recently completed one year of working as a resident advisor during her second year at the University of California, Davis.

Her un-themed, coed floor consisted of about seventy freshmen. While it is usually conventional to have two resident advisors mining a floor of that size, she covered the entire floor on her own.

In my interview with her, I have discovered details explaining everything ranging from what RAs are forbidden to do to tips for incoming freshman from a resident advisor’s standpoint.

What is an Resident Advisor?

To start off, a resident advisor is generally a current undergraduate student who lives on a dorm floor among fellow students in order to supervise residents and hand out advice when needed. Angelica thought she would enjoy being an RA because she had done something similar in high school called Link Crew, which serves to help integrate freshmen into the school.

RAs are seen as a resource and a conflict mediator to dorm residents. While RAs are typically stereotyped as uptight, strict policy enforcers, their essential purpose is to come to the aid of students as much as possible.

On Policy Enforcement:

Angelica notes that the strictness of your RA really depends on the specific person. Some resident advisors may enforce the policies harshly while some are more lax.

“As far as write ups go, RAs don’t want to do it. We don’t want to be that guy”.

Most resident advisors will try to give out a warning to their residents before reporting them, especially if the violation was a minor problem such as noise. Noise violations are when residents are too loud during dorm quiet hours. Typical college dormitories will enforce quite hours in order to give residents some peace to sleep or study.

“We don’t really turn a blind eye but documenting is a lot of work. You have to enter in a very long and detailed report at like eleven-thirty at night for noise which many RAs don’t want to do when they can just tell their residents to be quiet. Normally if you are asked to be quiet and you mess up again, it is a write up, but RAs really don’t want to do all the work so they often ask or remind you it is quiet hours.”

But she warns freshmen to not rely on being handed a warning.

“Some RAs definitely go straight to documenting”.

Angelica recommends treating quiet hours like a library setting, but talking levels can easily rise and get out of hand. It is a violation if an RA is coming up the stairs and can hear you talking in the lounge. It is also a violation if an RA is passing by your room and can hear you through a closed door.

She says that residents typically get confused about the different weekday and weekend quiet hours, so she was usually looser about violations. Aside from general noise violations, Angelica has also faced other problems with her residents such as suspicion of drugs and alcohol and residents throwing water balloons from windows at people.

“I asked that residents are just SMART about what they do. If you take all your activities off campus and return to you beds quietly when you want, no one has to know.”

What Your Resident Advisor Won’t Tell You:

1. We can’t tell residents about other resident roommate conflicts or any trouble that they get in to

2. How to get on to the roof! (People want to know about roof access so badly!)

3. There is no written rule forbidding RAs to date residents (at least at our school), but it is implied if you want a relationship, one of you should transfer dorms or you should wait until the year is up

4. We are not allowed to party where the residents party (We aren’t supposed to be seen at parties)

5. RAs can write up other RAs who are breaking the rules

6. Residents are allowed to invite their RAs to hang out with them in social settings, as long as no drugs or alcohol are involved

7. Usually RAs do not initiate going out

8. Bonding on the floor or in the dining commons is encouraged, but bonding elsewhere at events where residents have to pay out of pocket is discouraged because that could influence who is able to go

9. We don’t go searching for violations, sometimes people are not smart about their actions and we stumble upon them

Additional things RAs are forbidden to do:

  • We are not allowed to give residents anything medically related – not even a band-aid!
  • We cannot have any banned substances
  • We are not allowed to take residents on rounds with us even if they are future RAs (in order to maintain privacy in the event that we witness something inappropriate)
  • We are not allowed to talk bad about any residents
  • We have to maintain a cumulative GPA of at least a 2.0
  • All student housing and campus wide rules apply to us

From the View of an RA:

Angelica points out that there is definitely a small adjustment period that residents tend to go through after initially moving in, especially for freshmen living with complete strangers. There is some conflict about how to share the space but normally nothing too intense.

What is most surprising is that it is typically other residents who draw the RA’s attention to a resident conflict. The resident advisors rarely uncover a conflict by themselves.

“Residents come to my door whenever they are awake, which is not always when I’m awake. Others email me”.

While RA’s are forbidden to speak about residents, most of the time the residents will tell others when they get in trouble, and they will spread gossip among themselves.

Sometimes students will come to Angelica for help resolving an actual conflict between roommates, but more often they go to her for someone to rant to. Residents are forced to live with these people for the next nine months so they try to make it as livable as possible.

“They want me to help them come up with a way to tell their roommates they are annoyed without blatantly saying they are.”

If, for any reason, a roommate situation is not able to be worked out, you may request a room transfer. The person requesting the transfer is the one to be moved out of the dorm though. By student housing rules, a resident cannot be forced to leave unless they are a danger to others.

Finally, here are some tips from Angelica. Just remember, RA’s are students as well. They are expected to adhere to the rules as well, and even more so because they are the ones who are supposed to be setting an example.

Top 5 Tips for freshmen from a Resident Advisor:

1. Do not take a lot of hard major classes your first quarter. College is intensely fast-paced, especially if you are on a quarter system. Ten weeks goes by a lot faster that freshmen expect, and most of them are not used to having their grades based off of two midterms and a final exam.

2. Be smart. Just because your parents are around does not mean you can act like you have never had anyone teach you the difference between right and wrong

3. Know, within reason, how you want to live in a dorm room and the rules and boundaries you want to set up

4. Know what you expect from the people you are living with and TELL THEM. A lot of people live with annoying people all year long without speaking up

5. Do not forget to have fun – the dorms are…interesting, and definitely a great part of college!

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Ashley Yang

Ashley Yang

Ashley Yang will be entering her junior year at the University of California, Davis in the fall, where she is pursuing a double major in Economics and Communication. Outside of class, she loves to see her friends and family, jam out to T-Swift, make smoothies, and curl up and unwind with a relaxing book. Other interests of hers include ballet and gymnastics, skiing, travel, volunteer work, chick-flick movies, animals, and Christmas.
Ashley Yang

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