Ryan Dempsey, Staff Writer

One of the hardest on-campus jobs there could ever be at George Mason University is that of a resident advisor. The job of a resident advisor is one that never really ends and is something that a lot of on-campus residents take for granted.

In my three years of being an RA, I have heard a lot of common misconceptions about the job. Many residents think that RAs go around campus looking for an incident, attempting to go out of our way to bust any and every resident for having alcohol or drugs in their room. Others believe we are nothing more than arrogant snitches that are power hungry. In all actuality, RAs know we do not get paid enough to act as law enforcement, as full-time babysitters or as parents. Resident advisors are responsible for building a community within their residence halls, advising and being a resource for residents whenever they are in need and promoting a safe environment in the residence halls, which happens to also mean communicating and upholding housing and university policies.

Many people at this university do not even know how much preparation goes into being an RA. First, resident advisors have to move back two weeks before other students to go through training and begin setting up for opening weekend. During training, RAs wake up and begin their day at 8:30 a.m. and train until 10 p.m. During training, we learn office tasks, conflict resolution, crisis management, fire and room safety, what’s new on campus, and complete seminars regarding sexual assault and suicide. On top of all of the training, RAs are responsible for making posters, door decorations, learning names of residents, completing room condition reports, reporting problems to maintenance, checking room keys and preparing floor meetings. All of the training and preparation is to help residents and some RAs don’t even get time to set up their rooms until after opening weekend. Despite how hard resident advisors work, some students still underappreciate the RA role. Maybe it’s because of the false assumptions that residents often refuse to let go of.

Resident advisors are responsible for being on duty in the housing area and doing rounds around the housing area every night. RAs are not on rounds to patrol, but rather to be a familiar face in the community that others can come to whenever anything is needed. When an RA knocks on a door, it’s not because the RA is trying to bust anyone, but because either a complaint was filed by another student, or because the RA felt that there was a possible violation that needed to be addressed. By violation I don’t necessarily mean underage drinking or parties or drugs. Normally, residents get caught with the aforementioned things because of something simple like being confronted about a noise infraction that leads to bigger and more serious issues.

RAs uphold the policies not because we are uptight jerks, but because some of us have been unfortunate enough to witness something that we never hope to see again. Nothing is scarier than to see a student fight for their life because they were left in their room passed out from a party they just went to and consumed too much alcohol. I don’t say this to scare anyone, but things such as this do happen on this campus and RAs have been trained to make a proper assessment and to make sure the necessary actions are taken. I guarantee that RAs understand how much money other residents pay for housing and for their education and none of us want to see any resident lose that.

Other residents get especially upset with RAs during health and safety checks, thinking that RAs are doing nothing more than making their lives hell. But resident advisors are actually doing health and safety checks to ensure the safety of everyone in the building, as well as potentially saving residents money. After RAs check the buildings, fire marshals go through rooms to check for failures. These failures, if found by fire marshals, could result in fines of hundreds of dollars that residents would be responsible for paying. The items that the Office of Housing and Residence Life prohibit as stated in The Guide to Pride, such as plug-in air fresheners, extension cords, or spider lamps, are prohibited because of fires that they can and have caused. When a plug-in air freshener dries up, but is still plugged in and heating dried up oils, what do you think can happen? And when residents complain that they didn’t know of the items that are prohibited in residence halls, I ask why have you not read The Guide to Pride? If residents spent more time being responsible for looking things up before just spending money, they wouldn’t have to bring these items to college and thus, wouldn’t get upset at RAs for telling residents that items must be removed.

I know I’ve focused on a lot of the negatives, but there are also a lot of rewarding things to being an RA. Resident advisors have the great challenge to build community. For most RAs, that means we have to use our creative ability to come up with fun and interesting programs that residents will want to attend. Starting this year, the Office of Housing and Residence Life has implemented a new programming model called CORE, which is designed to create more on-campus programs that build community, increase opportunity, encourage reflection or help the environment. With this new model, RAs will be able to do programs that are more social and fun in nature. The biggest challenge is getting residents to attend the programs.

RAs will never be the most-liked people by residents, but we serve as a necessary function to on-campus life. I believe that if residents and RAs communicate better with each other, and residents understand that RAs are students too, we can all live in a more cohesive community.