The role of a Mercyhurst RA: Friend, not enemy

Being a Resident Assistant (RA) is an extremely difficult and time-consuming job.

They are in charge of the safety and well-being of their area, building a community between residents and disciplinary action that might unfortunately occur every once in a while.

A general misconception about RAs is that they are the “bad guys,” who are out to get people in trouble. This is not the case at all.

RAs take on this unique job for many reasons – one being the money they are paid by the school to do the job. This definitely has its perks, but it doesn’t necessarily compensate for the amount of work an RA has to do on a day-to-day basis.

Junior Adam Ferrari, a first year RA in the sophomore area says, “My favorite part of the job is the leadership role and being accountable and in charge in certain perspectives.”

To be successful, RAs need to be conscious of their time-management skills, as well as confident, outgoing and not afraid of addressing groups of peers.

Once chosen as an RA, students are required to be at school two weeks prior to the start of classes. This is when they learn about all the services Mercyhurst has available, as well as tactics to dealing with problematic residents or situations. It is a very intense two weeks of training full of paperwork and getting apartments ready for residents to start moving in.

During the school year, RAs are responsible for providing a certain number of activities every term, making door decorations welcoming their residents, counseling, putting in maintenance orders, filling out paperwork and attending mandatory weekly meetings.

RAs take one weekday duty night, and, depending on the term, multiple weekend duty nights. These are incredibly exhausting because they must be awake until 3 a.m. some weekends to keep an eye on things in their area.

A variety of situations could occur during a night of “duty” and an RA has to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond to an emergency.

This job also involves getting to know residents and noticing when something doesn’t seem right. Most are very observant, taking notice when someone seems to be withdrawing from friends and becoming less and less interactive with their friends.

Senior Marleah Williams said, “It’s really great to know that you’ve made a difference in one of your resident’s lives and that’s the most rewarding part of being an RA.”

The responsibility of taking notice of depressed students or students in danger of hurting themselves is a difficult task that many students would not be able to cope with. However, it’s a job RAs take on many times throughout the year.

Another RA in the upperclassman area, senior Lauren Moss, hopes that the RA job will help her in her future.
“I want to go onto a career working in a college counseling center. Nothing prepares you more to work with the college undergraduate population than the RA position.”

The RA position is one of great leadership and responsibility.

Unfortunately, RAs are usually viewed as the jerks that bust up parties and underage drinkers on the weekends. Although that is part of the job, it is definitely not something they like to do. The paperwork is a hassle, and they do not enjoy seeing their friends and neighbors getting into trouble with Residence Life.

The RA’s main goal is to keep students safe. This sometimes involves disciplinary actions.

Every RA interviewed for this article reported that their least favorite part of the job was possibly having to get friends and peers in trouble.

Junior Jeanette Long summed up the feelings of the majority of RAs saying, “A lot of students don’t realize that we are in a position to document the situation or lose our jobs. It’s never anything personal, but it’s sort of hard to explain that when students are screaming at you for ‘busting them.’”

Even though disciplinary sanctions can be a part of the job, the RAs at Mercyhurst are a group of friendly and enthusiastic people who are generally concerned for other’s well-being. They are looking out for the student population, making sure that everything in living situations run smoothly.

RAs are friendly faces students can rely on. They want to get to know their residents and be involved in their lives as a positive role model.

Junior Louise Weist, an upperclassman RA, says, “I love meeting new people. As a music major, I rarely get to make friends with anyone outside the music department. Being an RA allows me to make outside connections.”

Don’t be afraid to talk to an RA if you have a problem. That’s what they’re there for and would be more than happy to help you in any way they can. They have been through the training to point you to the right resources around campus if you have a problem.

The RAs at Mercyhurst College are a group of people who are to be utilized as a tool, whether it be concern for a friend, roommate conflicts or counseling about personal situations. They’re also a friendly face to see around campus as well as a friend and peer.

Liz Zurasky is a Resident Assistant in the upperclassman area.