Being a Resident Assistant, more commonly known as an RA, at Mercyhurst is comparable to holding any other basic job while being a college student at the same time.
RAs are required to dedicate several hours per week to various mandatory activities. RAs must be on duty at minimum two days per week every week all year long. An RA must be in the building making rounds from 9 p.m. until midnight. For freshman, buildings have night desk workers at all the entrances to the dorms, if by chance the desk worker does not show up we are required to sit at the desk for at least an additional half hour. For at least five weekends per semester, RAs are on duty for a full weekend, meaning that on Friday and Saturday night we must be on duty from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.
Again, if a desk worker does not show up, we will be required to sit at the desk for additional time. Additionally RAs are required to take time out of our schedules to put on various programs throughout the semester to build community with the residents in our building. There are weekly reports and meetings that are mandatory and take more time out of our schedules. We must also be available 24/7 for our residents to handle any problems they might have as well as submitting reports for any maintenance problems in our respective buildings. Not to mention arriving two weeks before school starts for at least 12 days of training, and staying until the last day checking out all residents on campus and going through all the residence halls.
All of this is known when we are hired on as RAs and we sign contracts acknowledging the responsibilities we will have all year long. But in the last two years those who are in charge of Residence Life who are supposed to have the interests of RAs in mind have found it appropriate to cut our numbers and diminish our compensation while at the same time increasing our already arduous workloads. Last year, the freshman RAs were informed that the dollar amount we received per term, which is usually used to cover books and other expenses, was going to be cut by over half. On top of receiving less compensation, instead of getting a stipend three times a year Residence Life decided it would be fitting to only pay RAs twice a year now. This decision was made behind closed doors and the opinions and concerns of RAs were never asked for once. The first we heard of it was after the decision was made. Resulting in that this year we will be taking more classes per semester, meaning more books and more money needed to buy books, and will be paid less than half our old stipends and only twice per year.
When I voiced my opposition to this last year Alice Agnew looked me in the face and told me it was all even and justified this statement by saying RAs would be given more meals per semester and thus we did not need the actual money in our pockets. In reality, RAs received 100 meals per term last year and this year they receive 150 meals per semester, now I am not a math major but my calculations tell me that the total amount of meals is 300 both ways. I personally have not seen how our compensation has been made even from last year to this year. Even with all the cuts and extra work and the sneaky ways in which Residence Life went about this whole new stipend business the RAs accepted what was happening. What else could we do? But then one last addition was made, the whole J-term issue was presented to us. Being that I am not required academically to be here for the J-term I did not intend to stay on campus during that time.
But Residence Life has seen fit to require all RAs, regardless if they are taking classes or not, to be present and continue normal responsibilities for the entirety of the J-term. Now, not only have stipends been cut and workloads increased but now we have to stay the entire J-term. So if you were thinking like me that the stipends were cut because most RAs will not be here for J-term so they are working a month less than in the past and even though it is no excuse for the drastic cuts and not informing RAs before the decision was made Residence Life can justify what they did that way. But now we have to be here all year and work the same as if it were the fall or spring semester during J-term and not be properly compensated for it. Additionally, the whole business about the J-term was never put in the contracts returning RAs sign at the end of every year. The details of J-term requirements were not given to us until the middle of July and there was no one on campus to question Residence Life on behalf of the RAs. Residence Life has seen fit to manipulate RAs and take as much as they can from us while at the same time expecting us to do more and more.
Residence Life does not consult RAs on any major decisions they just dictate what they expect from us and assume RAs will fall in line and accept what the school sees fit to give us. I for one am not the type of person who sits back while those above me use me as some type of puppet they can bend to their will. I have a voice and I want it to be heard.
Earlier this month we were again told RAs are required to be here for J-term and I voiced my opposition to my immediate boss Jacob Gdovin, also the Hall Director of my building, and said I will not stay here unless I am properly compensated. He told me Alice will not hear what I have to say and that my argument is falling on deaf ears. Again I said I will not stay here and he told me not to expect my job back in the spring.
In an attempt to obtain what is basic fairness in my compensation for the work I do I was threatened with losing my job. This is how Residence Life conducts business at Mercyhurst and it is time everyone knew what RAs have to put up with on a daily basis.Many readers may feel little empathy for RAs since we are seen as the bad guys who break up parties and get people in trouble. And while it is true that we are required to be party poopers most of the time, residents forget all they ask from us when things go wrong.
Think of where a resident goes when they get locked out, have a roommate conflict, need something repaired in their room or apartment, or have any other personal problem, the RA is the go-to person for all of that. Now multiply all your individual problems by at least 15 and now you see what an RA deals with in their respective areas. RAs are not asking for the moon, just basic fair compensation and representation in the decision making process. If Residence Life cannot see fit to treat us with more respect, then they should start thinking of what will happen if one day all the RAs don’t show up for work. How will campus life look if no one is there to enforce rules or help residents with problems?