During his first semester as a consultant at George Washington University, Drew Amstutz comforted overseas students struggling with culture shock, reassured freshmen who panicked about bad grades, wrote down some students about underage drinking, and found a referral for another, who believed it was her who slipped a date-rape drug at a party.
If the university hadn't interrupted its RA program this year, it might have been his job to keep the students masked and three feet apart.
An RA should be "an all-rounder," said Amstutz. "You had to be everything for everyone, from advisors to academic advisors" to social director and rule enforcer. "Absolutely no one can meet all of these requirements and be excellent in all of them."
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the RA job stress have reached a breaking point at locations across the country. The role traditionally associated with free room and board had already grown in responding to crises at any time of the day or night, from sexual assault to mental breakdown. Now, in a deadly pandemic, George Washington decided it was time to pull the plug.
The university announced Thursday that home-living professional workers will take over the first responder role that RAs have done in the past. Instead of the 140 RAs it had last year, George Washington will hire around 200 students for hourly part-time work such as: B. for mediating conflicts between peers, staffing reception areas in dormitories, helping students move in and out, and communicating via e-mails and social media. The university hopes to serve as a role model for other colleges to try to ease the pressure on RAs.
"There are a lot of things that students pack and take to college that I don't think 18-19 year olds are willing to take out of the box," said M.L. (Cissy) Petty, vice president of student affairs and dean of students. "Covid was a wake up call."
There are a lot of things that students pack and take to college that I don't think 18-19 year olds are willing to unpack.
Last fall, when only three of the campus's 26 dormitories housed around 500 students, "we had time to think about what had become of this role and what we wanted to change." The university has allocated a dozen paid staff to the six dormitories that opened by spring, an approach it will expand in the fall.
Petty said the decision to remove the overarching role of an RA reflected "a philosophical shift towards a more robust professional staffing model."
Each dormitory has at least one professional who serves as the first point of contact for students. Because of their education, training, and experience, these employees will be better placed to handle parts of the job such as safety compliance and behavioral interventions that many RAs have found challenging and unfulfilled.
Charlotte McLoud-Whitaker, Head of Dormitory Education, lives with her husband in an on-campus dormitory and looks forward to further professional staff.
As the on-demand senior administrator in her building, she helped oversee some of the communications and planning during a turbulent year marked by Covid-19 and racist attacks on the Capitol. When National Guard armed forces and military-style vehicles were stationed right outside campus in the heart of Washington DC, their staff helped communicate with concerned parents and students, letting them know where to get groceries and how to be safe. Relocating staff to dormitories will allow staff to develop closer personal relationships with students and ensure that their needs are met.
Peter Galloway, president of the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, said he is not aware of any other locations doing what George Washington plans to do, but that he has heard from others looking for ways to overcome some of the responsibilities of resident counselors to take over & # 39; Plates.
Galloway, who is also the assistant dean of students at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, said more and more students are coming to campus with mental health problems, concerns about sexual harassment, or assault, and parents calling their RAs to check their wellbeing.
"The scale of the problems they have to deal with has increased significantly," said Galloway. "Depending on the institution, there could come a point where it is too much for a trained student who is still too big in undergraduate studies."
He said some campuses delegate the enforcement scope of the job to professional staff who patrol the halls looking for students who violate drinking or other rules. If RAs are also expected to be enforcers, "that makes their position difficult because they are trying to create a community, but the next day they could document a student for inappropriate behavior," Galloway said.
With the George Washington program overhaul largely under lock and key until Thursday, it's unclear how those hoping to become RAs will react with the room and board perks that come with it. In recent years, some university RAs have objected to a university decision overhaul Your responsibility is to have to walk around the halls looking for parties and wrongdoing.
The goal was to make it easier for RAs to check in with their students, but some complained that it strained those relationships. The demands of the job have also created strained relationships between RAs and the administration.
With cell phones and social media providing uninterrupted connectivity, the role of an RA has become a 24-hour job, said Stewart Robinette, an assistant student dean at George Washington who specializes in campus life and education Residential areas concentrated. "It was at a point where it permeated all aspects of student life."
As mandatory reporters on Title IX cases, RAs must report sexual abuse concerns and place them in uncomfortable positions if one of their residents wants to confide in them but is unwilling to report it. Campus security became a worrying concern after the deaths of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech in 2007. And with Covid-19, RAs on duty faced a threat to their own health.
"The only good thing about the pandemic is that it put the world on a hiatus and allowed us to reassess the way we do things," said Amstutz, the George Washington student and former RA.
Amstutz is looking forward to applying for a new role this fall – possibly in programming or on social media. He likes that he can hop on and off and focus on what he's most excited about. “I was good at events with residents and really enjoyed the Thursday evening dinner in my room, before Covid of course. I didn't enjoy all of the paperwork and reporting that much. "
When hired in a more targeted role, "I'll be able to take on scheduling programs," he said, "knowing that someone else is going to solve Title IX issues" and answering the nightly calls.
Manvitha Kapireddy, a senior citizen who serves as president of the university's dormitory association
said she understands that not everyone will immediately embrace the changes.
"This is new territory," she said. “When you think of college, RAs are a cornerstone of that experience. What happens to the sense of community when you remove them? "
However, she believes that 200 students in roles, including peer mediators, more carefully tailored to their interests and strengths, should help alleviate these concerns. It could also help prevent student burnout. “With an hourly student position, you can get on and off with a given number of hours. This is a great way to prevent students from being unduly burdened with issues that are above their pay grade. "
(tagsToTranslate) Manvitha Kapireddy (t) George Washington University (t) Charlotte McLoud-Whitaker (t) Stewart Robinette (t) Virginia Tech (t) Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (t) West Chester University of Pennsylvania (t) t) student life (t) administration