Resident Services to begin enforcing roommate policy

Photo by Matt Merchant

Photo by Matt Merchant

Josh Yager

To accommodate a larger than usual incoming freshman class, Residence Services will be enforcing an existing policy that requires most resident assistants to have a roommate.

Jill Church, director of Residence Services, said RAs get to choose their roommate before residence services assigns a random roommate. She said there are still 31 RAs on campus who will not have a roommate this fall because those RA rooms are singles.

“About 40 staff members picked their own roommate out of the 109 RAs who will have a roommate,” Church said. “Students will be picked to live with RAs based upon their hall choices and questions they answered about their personality traits.”

Amanda Bevington, a resident assistant currently in South Korea, said in an email interview that it is hard for an RA to pick his or her own roommate. (Bevington could not respond to phone calls for this article due to poor reception and Internet connection.)

Bevington said that in order to choose a roommate of her choice she had to choose someone who was already booked to live somewhere else on campus.

“This was hard for some RAs because most had friends who didn’t want to live on campus anymore,” Bevington said. “And if they did, they didn’t already have a room placement somewhere on campus.” 

Church said students who were assigned to live with RAs have not been told by Residence Services that they are living with an RA. The regular procedure typically involves students getting an email with the only the name of their future roommate and does not identify that person as an RA or otherwise. She said many RAs are contacting their future roommates and early next month during training they will reach out to their new roommate, if they haven’t done so already.

Church said RAs receiving roommates will have their stipend doubled.

“They get a meal plan, room waiver and then a $350 a semester stipend,” she said. “So those who have a roommate would have $700 a semester stipend.”      

Having students live with RAs permanently would be better than having students live in lounges temporarily until another room opens up, Church said.

“When the lounge is offline, it impacts 60 students instead of just an RA and roommate,” she said. “We certainly like to provide a single room when we can for RAs just because we know that is one of the perks of the job but it is not a guaranteed piece and if we need to use those spaces, we do.”

Church said when residence services met with the RAs initially about enforcing the policy, many of the RAs were concerned with a variety of issues.

“We had a lot of uncertainty and people who were worrying about privacy,” she said.  “When we met with them in April they asked questions and we got suggestions and solutions. When everybody left they weren’t excited but definitely more comfortable.”

Bevington said there have been lists of concerns and topics made by RAs which include confidential information inside the room, lack of personal time for the RA, late night knocks on doors, late duty nights and more.

None of the RAs took themselves out of the RA pool because of this new policy, Church said.

“You might hear people won’t want to be an RA again because having a room to yourself is one of the best things about the job,” she said. “It didn’t impact our pool at all and I think that is a testament to what kind of leaders we have in that position. I’m really excited about the year and I think our RAs are going to help connect the people they have living with them to Kent State.”

Matthew Musgrave, residence hall director for Centennial Court A and B, said they are using every space they have in the buildings to accommodate for living arrangements.

“We are still putting people in lounges but we wanted to take advantage of the space we already had,” Musgrave said. “So instead of using the RA rooms as a last ditch option, we said back in April to the RAs that we’re just going to give you roommates and we will put people in lounges if we have to.”

Musgrave said in previous years that students lived with RAs temporarily, but now that it’s permanent they are giving the residents nice furniture in new rooms to welcome them into the space.

“It’s really hard for any student in transitional housing,” Musgrave said. “You’re kind of living out of suitcases for (an) indefinite amount of time. All of your friends are getting settled into their room and you don’t even know if you’re going to stay in your building.”

Musgrave said if residents of the dorms wanted to talk privately with an RA and the roommate didn’t want to leave, they could meet in an empty study lounge or he would be more than happy to leave his office so students can use that room.    

“I will always drop everything I’m doing if what I’m doing by dropping everything is helping the student out,” Musgrave said. “If someone is having a conversation where they’re coming out to their RA or it’s a really bad family conversation, the fact they have a confidential person to talk to, it is important that students feel they still have a safe space to talk.”

Contact Josh Yager at [email protected].