Life as an RA: It’s a 24/7 job

Brittany Moseley

Resident assistants are on call all the time to help with lost keys, breakups and everything else

When Meaghan Sweney is woken up at 3 a.m. on a Saturday by a student who has locked herself out of the dorm, she thinks nothing of it.

Sweney is a resident assistant on the second floor of Fletcher Hall, and is used to being on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in case anyone has a problem.

“If someone breaks up with their girlfriend at 3 a.m., we have to be willing to talk with them whenever,” said Sweney, a senior art education major.

This is Sweney’s second semester as an RA. She decided to be a RA so she could help students have an easier transition to college life than she had.

“My first semester (in college), I was really homesick,” Sweney said. “I joined Hall Council towards the end of the semester, and I formed a connection with the residence hall staff. It was the only reason I stayed on campus.”

The process to becoming an RA isn’t an easy one. It lasts from October until April, and those serious about becoming an RA must make it through the interview process, the draft and the workshop. Applicants must also have at least a 2.3 GPA.

Sweney said there are about three rounds to the whole process. The first step is the application, which is released Oct. 16. Applicants have until Dec. 8 to complete them, and need three references. One must be from a university faculty or staff member.

After the applications are in, those who meet the requirements will be assigned an interview time. The interviews are conducted by residence hall directors, assistant residence hall directors and three RAs.

After the interview process, the qualified applicants take a class called “Leaders Workshop.”

“It’s a seven-week workshop that focuses on aspects of the RA position,” said Kim Ferguson, area coordinator of Tri-Towers.

After the workshop, the number of applicants decreases dramatically, she said.

“A lot of people decide being an RA isn’t for them after the class,” Sweney said.

One person who made it through the process was Britta Reinke, a junior nursing major and an RA for the second floor of Johnson Hall.

“I’ve always wanted to be an RA,” Reinke said. “I just wanted to help people.”

Both Reinke and Sweney agree that students will come to an RA for any kind of help.

“People don’t hesitate to come to you with any problem,” Reinke said.

Although Reinke hasn’t been woken up this year by a locked out student, she said it happened a lot last year when she was an RA in First Year Experience.

Sweney, on the other hand, was woken up already this semester by a locked-out student.

“There have been several incidents of people getting locked out at strange hours in strange amounts of clothing,” Sweney said.

She also said things are worse when the weather is warm or there’s an event on campus.

“When it’s nice outside, you have really loud people and lots of alcohol,” Sweney said. “Sometimes people are so intoxicated that we’ve had to call the paramedics.”

Even with late night wake-up calls and hall duties lasting from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., Sweney and Reinke agree that the positives outweigh the negatives.

“You get free room and board and a monthly stipend, which is really nice,” Reinke said. “You meet so many people and learn things like people skills.”

For those interested in becoming an RA, Ferguson said it is critical to get involved in your residence hall.

“It’s important to know as much about your hall as possible,” said Ferguson. “Get involved with your hall council and the university.”

There is much more to an RA’s life than resolving roommate issues and missing keys. As Sweney said, RAs are there to “help build communities” in the residence halls – something that can’t be taught in a classroom.

Contact features correspondent Brittany Moseley at [email protected].