Not all floors have RAs; students unsatisfied with level of support

Adria Barbour

The university has a lack of resident assistants, due to various factors, and some say this is causing problems for students and as well as RAs on campus.

Robin Gagnow, assistant director of Residence Services, said the lack of resident assistants is because campus has less of a need for them.

“Upper-classmen don’t need the RAs as much,” Gagnow said. “They have passed the transition stage, such as asking typical questions like where places are and how to buy books.”

Courtney J. Williams, a resident assistant for the third and fourth floors of McDowell Hall, said she believes the lack of RAs is because of a lack of funding. She was told by her resident hall director that more help didn’t fit into the budget.

Adam Volz, McDowell Hall RA for the fourth and fifth floors, agreed.

Betsy Joseph, director of Residence Services, said there may have been a a lack of RAs before she came to Kent State last year, but that is not the case now. There are more RAs in the residence halls that need them, such as freshman halls.

“Our student to staff ratio is bigger than other schools,” Joseph said.

Missing in Action

However, sometimes the number of RAs is disproportionate to the amount of students who need them. Sometimes students can’t contact their RAs in certain situations, said Kristin Maile, who has an RA who is responsible for two floors. The freshman exploratory major is an Apple Hall resident.

“Last year on the seventh floor (of McDowell), I felt so bad because there were four suite students, all of them freshmen,” Volz said. “None of them had an RA. It made it harder for them because they had to go up or down a floor.”

Maile said there are times when things happen and her RA isn’t around, leaving students with one option — leaving notes on her door.

“That’s all you can do, especially when there is an immediate situation that needs to be taken care of,” Maile said.

One situation involved a man smoking in the women’s wing of the residence hall. Maile said she couldn’t find her RA to deal with the problem.

“It was frustrating,” Maile said. “We had to go to another section of the building and ask the guys’ RA to come and deal with the situation.”

Gagnow said students without a RA will have to call their area desk if they need help. The area desk will direct the student to someone who can help them, whether it is a maintenance problem or otherwise, Gagnow said.

Katie Fallsgraf, freshman geography major and Apple Hall resident, said when there are problems such as loudness in the hallways late at night or boys using the girls bathroom, the RAs are eventually notified. However, the problems persist.

Fellow Apple resident Maile agreed.

“I hardly see my RA, and personally, I haven’t gained anything from her,” Maile said. “She never comes down here. It’s a rarity if she comes down at all.”

Bearing the Burden

Williams, who is responsible for advising residents on the third and fourth floors of McDowell Hall, said she didn’t think to ask if she’d have two floors. She worried about it after her residence hall director told her, but she said it wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be.

“It’s not heavy, but I feel like I haven’t built a relationship with the residents on the fourth floor like I have with the residents on the third floor,” Williams said.

She also said she didn’t think her workload would be less if there were more resident assistants. She’d rather foster a better relationship with her residents than have more people hired.

Volz had a different opinion. He said the work is more time consuming. Resident assistants are responsible for dealing with hall violations, patrolling the floors and creating programs that build communities. Having more floors means one person has to make more name tags, more signs and more bulletin boards.

Resident assistants have to learn to split their time efficiently between the floors they are assigned, which is why a larger staff would be beneficial, Volz said. Residents get more office hours and more programs and the RAs have less nights on duty.

“It’s a pain in the butt trying to get to the other floor,” Volz said. “It sucks because I don’t know the residents well. I don’t see them often because they aren’t walking on my floor every day.”

Volz said the resident hall director informed the McDowell resident assistants last semester there would be another RA for the spring session. Later, the hall’s director said the budget wouldn’t allow additional help and that the plan fell through.

“That kind of throws me,” Gagnow said. “I don’t know if it’s a budget problem. It’s more that RAs aren’t needed than it is Kent State can’t afford them.”

Contact student affairs reporter Adria Barbour at [email protected].