By Socrates Gavriel
On any given night at Fitchburg State, there are residents who break campus policies and get caught. Then, instead of being angry with themselves, they take it out on their resident assistants – calling them the “fun police” or other, even less favorable terms.
According to the Fitchburg State web site, RAs are chosen “because of their personal qualities and skills” to serve in a demanding position: “The Resident Assistant serves in a wide range of roles, from friend to role model. Each Resident Assistant is trained in helping skills, community development, crisis intervention, conflict mediation and other areas to help residents cope with problems that may arise.”
Nowhere in the job description does it say, “Resident Assistants exist for the sole purpose of getting residents in trouble, and they must enjoy every moment of it.”
Yet Michael McCarthy, the building director of Russell Towers, says that some students in disciplinary hearings have the attitude that RAs exist for exactly that reason. His response is, “RAs don’t like getting residents in trouble any more than you like being in trouble; part of their job is enforcing policy, and it’s only a small aspect.”
Resident assistants are students first – there is a 2.2 minimum required GPA – and as students, RAs are expected to keep up with their schoolwork in addition to keeping up with the rest of their duties.
RAs also have “duty days,” during which they sign on with Campus Police and a building director on duty at 7 p.m., and are available to deal with any incident until 7 a.m. During the days, RAs are around campus as role models and friends when they aren’t being students.
Part of the reason that RAs don’t like “getting students in trouble” is that they don’t like filling out a bunch of paperwork any more than the next person does. Policy violations in which a resident assistant becomes involved result in an incident report, a report in which the RA documents the situation in detail, right down to what was said. Some reports are shorter than others, but during the day an RA would love nothing more than to walk away and be hanging out with friends instead of writing up an incident report because some students felt it was necessary to be belligerent at 4 p.m.
The heart of the reason that RAs don’t like getting residents in trouble, though, is that RAs are people too. Resident assistants were picked because they are personable and can build community; they aren’t robots. No one likes getting residents or friends in trouble. Sometimes an RA might lose a friend over it, but, more often than not, an apology comes shortly after incidents take place.
RA’s take their job seriously because they have to, not because they want to get students in trouble.