Most girls in their twenties have lived or are currently living in campus housing. Most likely, you have an RA–also known as a Resident Assistant, Community Advisor, Resident Mentor, Peer Advisor, and so on–who is in charge of your floor, area, or building. I remember moving in on my very first day of college, amazed by how friendly and put-together my RA was. She seemed so adult and so knowledgable! I wanted to be just like her as an upperclassman. My next RA was equally amazing, and after some deliberation, it was her vote of confidence that pushed me to actually apply for the position.
Over the past year as an RA for two floors (one all-female, one all-male), I’ve learned a lot. From 3 a.m. wake-up calls to broken glass (sans a broom), inordinate amounts of flooding to roommate conflicts, fistfights to random alarms going off, I’ve exercised my emergency, interpersonal, and conflict management skills.
You might not see all of these awesome, superhero-esque feats that your RA accomplishes. In fact, lots of people are scared of their RAs, for fear of getting in trouble. Truth be told, we are definitely not “out to get you”! (Hey, dealing with issues means writing reports. As you’d guess, it’s not my favorite thing.) Most RAs want you to have a great experience living in a residence hall, from the time we tape your door decoration up until the time we check you out.
Here are the easiest ways to get along with your RA, come the start of fall semester:
Keep the noise down: When an RA is investigating a potential violation, we have to have something to justify the investigation in the first place. 99% of the time, the initial reason the RA knocked was because you were being too loud. Perhaps your music or TV was cranked up, or you were laughing/yelling with your friends after quiet hours. If you end up getting documented for alcohol or something else worse than noise, the RA probably initially came to investigate the noise… and then found the other, more serious violation. Oops! Residents who are respectful of their noise level are always the RA’s favorites. Perhaps most importantly, being cognizant of quiet hours and noise in general is just nice.
Keep the bathroom clean: I’m always amazed how dirty the bathroom is on my all-girls floor! Coming from a house with two younger brothers, I always assumed that girls would be clean and neat. I’m constantly badgering my residents about picking up after themselves in our communal bathroom. This means not leaving paper towels and toilet paper on the floor, pulling the shower curtain shut so it doesn’t get moldy, and the golden (bathroom) rule: flush. Oh, and don’t forget your long hair! It really does leave hairballs. We have to use that bathroom, just like you.
Say hi: Believe it or not, (most) RAs genuinely care about how you’re doing. We became RAs because we like helping people, and it’s hard for us to do our job if you won’t interact with us! If I say hi and ask how you are, I actually want to hear about your life… I promise!
Cooperate: If for some reason your RA does find you in violation of a policy, please cooperate. If we ask if you have any alcohol in the room or if we need to see your ID, the best thing you can do is to follow our instructions and be truthful. Compliance is always noted in a report, and if you’re not cooperative, it will have severe ramifications. If we suspect you’re hiding something, we’ll often call in the higher-ups to do a search, which makes your situation even worse.
Report any maintenance issues ASAP: Just like cooperation, being upfront with your RA about any maintenance issues means that you (usually) won’t be charged for them at the end of the year. (Unless you purposely punched a hole in the wall or something.) This is especially important when your maintenance issue involves water, electricity, or a burning smell–these things can quickly get out of hand.
Use common sense: There are things you can get away with… and things you can’t. If you have a cat, it’s going to meow. If you use a candle, we’ll probably be able to smell it. Don’t be surprised when I come investigating!
Remember that we’re people too: RAs are students with papers, group projects (yuck), sports games, meetings, and rehearsals, just like you. On top of being a full-time college student, we’ve willingly taken on the role of caring for an entire floor of people our age. If it takes us a little while to respond to the note you left on our bulletin board, or we don’t have all the answers, please be patient. If you have an issue at 2 a.m., consider whether or not it’s worth waking your RA up. Could the situation be rectified by calling Campus Safety, instead?
Your RA wants to avoid unnecessary issues as much as you do. We want to make you happy (hey, why do you think I bake so many cookies?), and in return, we hope you’ll be awesome residents. It’s helpful to remember the administrative issues/policies behind what your RA does. You’re an adult–dealing with others, RA or not, is a valuable life skill!
Start off next year right: have fun getting to know your RA, eat lots of their cookies, and live in harmony with your hall staff.
Have any questions or want to share experiences of your own? Comment below!