Residential Life making changes to RA/CA hiring policy

By on October 20, 2016

For the 2017-2018 academic year Residential Life will only hire undergraduate students for resident assistant (RA) and community assistant (CA) positions, according to Director of Residential Life Mark DeVilbiss. In previous years, the department also hired graduate students to fill those positions.

Lisa Fallahi, a graduate student in physical therapy school, is a senior area CA in Eastview on the York Hill campus. She has roughly 85 seniors as her residents and lives in a single in a suite with residents.

Fallahi says she generally enjoys being a CA,  and she likes the responsibility of holding a leadership position in her community and enjoys the benefits of the job itself. But to her, this job comes with a price.

“I think most RAs and CAs will attest to the fact that they kind of feel underappreciated more often than not. [Residential Life] will say that we are replaceable because there are a lot of people trying to be RAs and CAs,” Fallahi said.

Applying for RA and CA positions has been competitive in recent years, due to the benefits it offers. The university pays for RA’s and CA’s meal plan and covers room costs.

Yet Fallahi feels as though this pressure carries on even when you get an RA or CA position.

“It’s like a ‘Catch-22,” like we want to do our job and do it the best way possible, but we kind of feel like we can’t step out of bounds in any way because if we do, they might just say, ‘Alright, well, you’re gone,’” she said.

When asked about her interactions with Residential Life and the professional staff, Fallahi immediately asserted that it has been negative. However, she also said that working with Residence Hall Directors (RHDs) has been a good experience for her.

“Last year, we had a big meeting because everyone was concerned that our input wasn’t being heard and what we wanted wasn’t being heard,” Fallahi said.“They  [Residential Life] said that they were going to be more transparent, they said that they were going to really try to keep our best interest at heart, and yet time and time again, they show us that they’re not doing those things.”

There was no indication or hint of this new policy coming, especially after ending the year with Residential Life promising to be more transparent, according to Fallahi.

Residential Life has full staff meetings a few times every semester. During a meeting in early October, the staff was going over some very difficult topics and covering a lot of information, and then suddenly things took a turn for the worse.

“The head of Residential Life stood up in front of all of us without any indication, reading off his paper and was like, ‘The fourth point in today’s meeting was that graduate students will no longer be able to be RAs and CAs,” Fallahi said.

Fallahi recalls feeling like he had dropped a bomb on her and the other staff members, on top of all the other important issues they had covered from the beginning of the semester.

The new policy prevents graduate students from being RAs or CAs and will allow current graduate students RAs and CAs to be re-hired for one year. The policy will take action for the 2017-2018 academic year.

“The new approach is effective immediately with regards to the hiring of new RAs. Current graduate RAs and CAs are eligible for rehire for one more year,” DeVilbiss said. “We believe the extra year will give our current graduate RAs and CAs ample time to plan ahead.”

DeVilbiss said this policy has been put into place to give undergraduate students more opportunity to fill RA and CA positions, and also to provide more space on campus for undergraduate students, since this has become a need for growing class sizes in recent years.

This is where Fallahi disagrees with Residential Life. She believes the university’s response of wanting to give undergraduates more opportunities is untrue.

“This whole thing is fueled by the university making money by having more beds to put places. It has nothing to do with giving undergraduates more leadership experience, it’s a lie,” she said.

When asked how graduate students have been reacting to this news, DeVilbiss says many have accepted the new policy and are able to see the benefits it creates for undergraduate students. However, there are still those who have reacted negatively because it changes their future plans as RAs or CAs.

Fahalli said for many RAs and CAs this disrupts their financial plans, which had a huge impact on their reaction to the news.

“They’ve got three years of $15,000, that’s 45 grand that they’re losing,” Fallahi said. “It was devastating for some people. So many people were crying, one of my best friends was basically hyperventilating because he realized he couldn’t afford to be here anymore.”

Fallahi said even those who are not directly affected by the decision were upset.

“It just put another nail in the coffin of us thinking that they don’t care about us at all, that we’re replaceable,” she said.

But DeVilbiss wishes to convey the importance of RAs and CAs to Residential Life.

“Our graduate RAs and CAs mean a lot to us, and we will miss having them on staff after next year,” DeVilbiss said. “I would like to acknowledge the contributions and experience of all the graduate students who have served as RAs and CAs over the years.”

Fallahi feels upset about this policy and all the aftermath from it and is disappointed by the lack of respect and mistreatment she has witnessed Residential Life show its staff.

Fallahi said she believes it’s good the university is growing, but making space should be done in the right way.

“We need to be profitable to be sustainable, it makes sense. But they didn’t need to do it in this way,” she said.

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