Every student who lives on campus has a resident advisor (RA for short), but students are often confused as to what their RA is there to do. In the freshman dorms, every floor has at least one. Working under the auspices of Residence Life, they’re there to make sure your freshman year goes as smoothly as possible. It’s easy to think of these people — who are sophomores, juniors and seniors — simply as the fun police, trying to catch you breaking the rules, but that’s not exactly how it works.
What exactly does my RA do?
Your RA’s main job is to make sure everything on the floor is running smoothly and to serve as a resource. They go through extensive training every August during which they learn about every possible resource on campus so they can lead you in the right direction. They also are supposed to create a fun atmosphere on the floor and help you get to know your neighbors. This often includes delicious baked goods and fun excursions off campus. While RAs are not psychotherapists or U.N. Peacekeepers, they’re good people to talk to if you’re having trouble adjusting to college or having issues with your roommate. In addition, the RA on duty will let you into your room if you lock yourself out and the RHO is closed. The RA on duty will also be the person who makes rounds during the night to make sure that no one is being excessively loud (which is how they’ll knock on your door and potentially write you up for breaking other rules).
Are RAs disciplinarians?
While there are a few notoriously strict RAs every year, most of them are fairly relaxed. Just because your RA is stuck in the building a few weekend nights a month doesn’t mean she has nothing better to do than squash all signs of fun! That being said, any RA in any building — including upperclassmen dorms and on-campus apartments — can write you up. The most common reason for being written up is alcohol consumption (all freshman dorms are dry) but they can also write you up for other reasons, such as vandalism, trash, and excessive noise.
What happens if I get written up?
This really depends on the situation. It will probably involve a meeting with your hall director and/or going in front of the Residential Judicial Council. Consequences for a first offense often include paying a small fine or serving sanction hours, often in the form of volunteering at events. While getting written up is no fun, lots of freshmen get written up at some point, so don’t sweat it too much. You’ll still be able to go abroad, become valedictorian or rule the world some day. If you get written up twice, you won’t be allowed to live in an apartment your sophomore year (but chances are you were going to live in a dorm anyway). If you use a little common sense, your chances of getting written up go way down. However if you don’t wise up and get written up more than once or twice, expect some severe repercussions.
If you do get written up, the Student Advocacy Office is a great resource to help you understand your rights when you do have to deal with administrators.
Help! I’m at a pregame/party and I see my RA. What do I do?
If you’re in your own building or another building that’s dry (that’s any freshman dorm), this is bad news. Find a way to exit as quickly and stealthily as possible — but if they try to write you up, do not try to run away. If you’re on more neutral territory, then there’s no need for alarm. If it’s a party thrown in an apartment or house on or off campus, it’s fine. While your freshman RA can’t write you up for drinking on a Village A Rooftop, if it feels weird or wrong to you, you can always leave. If the party you are at is broken up by an RA, DPS or SNAPS, simply leave as quickly as possible.
Is it weird to be friends with my RA?
BFFs that are attached at the hip? That’s a little weird. But to be friends or at least friendly with your RA is nice and not at all abnormal. Your RA might be a sophomore, meaning you’re practically the same age. You might find that your RA is involved in some of the same clubs or is in some of your classes. At the end of the day, they’re just students like everyone else — they just have a job that’s a little different.
About the author: Sari Frankel is a former deputy photo editor of The Hoya from New Jersey. She was an RA in LXR, an upperclassman dorm that primarily houses sophomores and transfers.
Photo: Ian Tice/The Hoya