It’s the first day of the semester and you just moved into your dorm. What’s the first thing you do? Check in with resident assistants (RA). On that unlucky day when you get back to your room and realize you don’t have your key and your roommate is gone for the weekend, who do you go to? Your RA.
Resident assistants play a pivotal role in residence halls on campus and their responsibilities are limitless.
Meghan Kilfeather, a third-year double major in English and Women’s Studies, was hired to be an RA in Lenape Hall last August. She lived in Scudder Hall her first two years on campus and decided to apply because she found the job appealing.
“I wanted to help people. I wanted to be there for residents like my RAs were there for me,” Kilfeather said.
All 13 residence halls on campus have a staff of several RAs, a community development assistant (CDA) and a resident director (RD). RAs are full-time undergraduate students, and CDAs can either be undergrad or graduate students. RAs can apply for the CDA position after one semester as an RA. Both RAs and CDAs report to the RD, the final authority within the hall.
The responsibilities of an RA include sitting duty in the RA offices, performing health and safety inspections and making themselves available for residents who need to talk. RAs are trained over summer and winter breaks to handle different situations that may arise.
Another major responsibility of being an RA is programming. From small-scale movie screenings in the main lounge to larger programs, RAs are required to meet quota for the semester.
According to Robert Moysey, RD of Scudder Hall, each RA is mandated to earn 100 points in programming. The number of points allotted for each program is at the discretion of the RD and varies on the complexity of the program.
“The most important thing is that they will be beneficial to the residents,” said Moysey. “That they have something fun to do.”
A minimum 2.5 GPA is required for all RA applicants who must have spent one semester living in a residence hall on any college campus and must have been a full-time SUNY New Paltz student for at least one semester. There were roughly 150 applicants for the fall of 2010 and between 30 and 50 of those candidates will be hired.
According to Corrinn Schwabrow, RD of Bliss Hall and area coordinator for the Leadership Development team on campus, the process has undergone several changes in recent years.
This year, an RA and RD interviewed applicants for nearly an hour. After the interviews, the Leadership Development team made cuts and those remaining moved to group process day. The RA hopefuls went through a second round of interviews and the decision to hire someone was then decided.
Applicants are encouraged to attend the optional RD/RA candidate social. Candidates sit together and each RD comes over to ask each person two questions. It’s not a mandatory event, but, according to Kilfeather, it helps the RDs get to know the candidates before they make their decisions.
New hires are placed in residence halls based on how the RD thinks they will work with current staff. According to Moysey, RDs look for different personalities that match one another and look for people who can work together as a team.
“The RA staffs all have different complexities within them, so you look for people to complement that,” Moysey said.
RA perks include leadership opportunities, free room and board and a break on meal plans.
Even with the benefits, being an RA does demand a lot of time. In addition to duties, RAs have weekly staff meetings and individual meetings with their RD. If police or paramedics are called to their building, the RA on duty must be present until the situation is resolved regardless of the time of night.
According to Schwabrow, RAs are expected to present themselves in a certain manner. They represent the school, their hall, and the Residence Life community at all times.
“We say they live life in a fish bowl,” said Schwabrow. “People are constantly looking at what they do and what they say. I’m looking for someone who is able to handle that.”