Resident Assistants (RAs) are college students who take on a leadership role to help older and younger students with non-academic and even academic problems or questions that occur throughout the school year. RAs have six weeks “to make a difference” to take the time to meet residents of the dormitory. RAs should ask students how they are adjusting to being at college and away from home. Marion McKinney said it is the RAs job to make the difference to get people use to the changes one may face. Those RAs should be role models for other students.
McKinney is a director of resident life and housing services. While she attended West Chester University she was a RA for four and a half years, she said she understands firsthand what RAs are doing. She was a Graduate Assistant (GA) in Ramsey Hall for two years. She helps and interacts with others. She said “love, love, love(s) my job,” as she tries to make it easier for students to be living on campus.
At the end of the fall semester, Res. Life asks the current RAs if they will continue their job as a RA for the spring semester. Current RAs can be asked to work the following academic year, “no RAs are guaranteed jobs.” RAs are reviewed by students who fill out anonymous responses about how their RA is doing for the year. RAs are also reviewed by Resident Director’s (RDs) who can meet with RAs. Any of these processes can help a RA make improvements if necessary to their job performance.
“It’s not fair to overlook a first-year student from getting a job for someone who has a job . . . (and) just wants a paycheck.”
Students cannot be a RA if they are in the position of trying to be “two places at once.” For example, students who are student teaching, or have an internship can not hold the position as a RA as it is “not fair to students.” One common reason for RAs to leave is if they are graduating at the end of a fall semester or in the spring time.
“Just because you’re a first-year student in college doesn’t make you a first year student,” McKinney said. She said that a couple of first-year students will get hired.
There were 186 applicants for the academic year of fall to spring, and with open positions, they were considered for this spring semester. McKinney said that some students withdraw their applications. Others may not be applicable if their GPA does not meet the standard requirement or if they received a judicial.
Training for potential new RAs begins during winter break and lasts for 10 days. For this spring semester, 17 applicants met on Jan. 5 to the 10th for training where they met new people and had a chance “to bond.”
Training allows students learn how to understand the position of a RA, students use role-playing to learn how to deal with real situations including judicial training and policies, building community, how to build programs even with other resident halls, and more. Students learn “how to approach peers appropriately and respectfully . . . not attacking (students).” McKinney said people learn from a “parent-child approach” and that no dignity should be lost over any situation.
On Jan. 30, there is a “fun day” group activity and RAs are selected in February for the academic year. McKinney said that first-year students are not normally hired. Part of a RAs job is to help students readjust to their living arrangements in the resident halls.
Seven RAs were replaced for the spring semester this year, all of which either broke a law or policy of being a RA. All RAs have a contract of a job description and expectations. McKinney said that RAs have to abide by local, state, and federal laws, and also University rules and regulations.
If RAs violate policies, they could be relieved of their job, privileges and remuneration. If an RA losses their job, they have to move out their room which is designated for RAs. It is up to the supervisor and the office of Residence Life and Housing Services if an RA in violation should be relocated to another building or off campus. This is also according to article 13 of RA job description for North and South campus.
Information of job descriptions and expectations of a RA can be found on the web site for Resident Life and Housing services.
McKinney has been working in Resident Life for 10 years, she said that this has never happened before. RAs have had to be removed for reasons that were not because of violating the law. She said she “couldn’t believe it” that seven RAs in the same semester had violated the law and University policies forcing their removal.
McKinney said that open RA positions are always refilled, there is a pool to draw from to hire in case of a vacancy.
McKinney said RAs should evaluate their fears and be oneself. RAs should be nice, firm and should not comprise their own values. She said that RAs should avoid a “power trip” and instead have the “power of being nice.” McKinney said RAs should ask themselves to think of this, if they were to apply to a job that one of their residents worked at, would the resident recommend their past RA for the job?
Applications to be considered for the position of a RA begin in October for the spring semester and for the whole academic year beginning the following fall semester. Students who want to apply to be a RA for the spring semester have to turn in their applications by November. Students can be considered for the spring semester if there is a need for RAs during that semester.
Requirements to be a RA include holding a GPA of 2.5 by the end of the semester prior to the semester one is applying for. This year, 45 students applied to be a RA for this spring semester. To be considered for the job, students needed a 2.5 GPA or higher by the end of this past fall semester.
While applications can be done online, students do have to print out all documents to complete the application. Students need three recommendations from references which can include faculty and supervisors.
While many students have written resumes in high school for a job or other leadership roles, McKinney said she wants students to be in the habit of writing resumes. She encourages students to utilize the resources on campus such as the career development.
She also encourages students to get involved on campus and get those experiences while in college. McKinney said that students who are not involved on campus are not typically likely to be hired. Students should write a creative paper along with their application, the paper will tell Res Life who they are. McKinny said that there is “no cookie-cutter to be an RA.”
All of the Res. Life staff will meet applicants, students can have four interviews in order for the staff to meet them personally.
McKinney said that being a RA is a “hard professional job on campus.” She wishes that more students would provide the service and be a RA.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a second-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.