Campus Life | September 9th, 2020
RAs: The Campus’ Most Essential Student Workers
By: Jalen Williams
Resident advisors have always played a vital role in campus life. These student workers are responsible for overseeing the safety and well-being of students while creating a comfortable living environment that will eventually become their home away from home. RAs are more than just student employees who handle room inspections and resident lockouts. They are friends that turn into mentors that turn into what Florida A&M University (FAMU) affectionately calls “FAMUly.” RAs already had numerous responsibilities to fulfill in the past, however, with the COVID-19 pandemic their job responsibilities have intensified tremendously.
With numerous universities reopening during COVID-19, RAs face new challenges as the semester begins. With the prevailing job loss caused by the pandemic, employment during this time is considered to be a luxury.
Ta’Nijha Wimes, a fourth-year pre-dental scholar and a returning RA said, “Our responsibilities not only changed but enhanced due to COVID-19. But the common goal is and will always be creating an exceptional student experience and also ensuring residents’ safety by enforcing the COVID-19 precautions.”
While Wimes is continuing her RA duties in Polkinghorne Village East this semester, the subject of giving these RAs equitable pay for their hazardous contact with residents is a concern.
Third-year accounting student and returning second-year RA in Sampson Hall, Kaleb Levarity said, “The fact that we are willing to do whatever and work so others can be serviced shows why this hazard pay wouldn’t just be given but earned.” With students commuting between classes, various facilities in the community and the residential facilities here on campus could be spreading the coronavirus. Student negligence is also a cause of caution for RAs as they continue to work throughout the semester. With the desire to interact with their peers, social distancing is a hard protocol to enforce.
“The only negligence I noticed was social distancing issues, of course,” said Andrew Chiwara, a junior agricultural business student and residential advisor in the university’s newest dormitory facility FAMU Towers. “Also just making sure that students are wearing masks, as well as knowing their status, as far as staying up to date with their COVID testing,” he said.
Chiwara feels the lack of social distancing is also causing the RAs to receive a form of hazard pay. “We are surrounded by students that may not be social distancing, so we put ourselves at risk,” Chiwara said.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way resident advisors are able to interact with residents. Due to new policies, resident advisors are unable to plan floor events and host activities that establish and strengthen the relationship between RAs and residents. Residential advisors also note this is the lowest number of residents they have had since their positions have begun.
“My experience by far as an RA is very interesting and different from last year. It sometimes feels like a ghost town within the residence halls because residents can’t gather,” Levarity said. “It hurts me sometimes to hear them say that they are so bored and that they can’t even go out and I can only hope that this passes over so they can have a truly exceptional experience even in the midst of chaos.”
Despite the unforeseen circumstances, the resident advisors are doing their best to embrace challenges positively.
“This is by far my most challenging year as an RA, but challenging in a good way,” Wimes said. In her first year as a resident advisor, most of her residents were upperclassmen. However, this semester most of her residents are freshmen. Wimes said she is honored to share the knowledge she has learned on this campus with every resident she encounters.
“Working in Polkinghorne Village East has challenged me to instill responsibility and independence into freshmen who aren’t used to being away from home, and it’s hard but I have a nurturing compassionate spirit,” Wimes said. “I also have to be firm sometimes with freshmen who tend to take advantage of the freedom that college provides. I have to do my best to be firm and remind them that COVID-19 is real and to mask up.”
It is evident that based on the current circumstances, resident advisors working during this time should be receiving some form of hazard pay. With all the new challenges they have to face in the upcoming semester, resident advisors will continue to do their best, as they have always done, to provide safe environments for residents and themselves.