RA on Duty: Being an RA during a global pandemic

Sean Repuyan, Features Editor

“The point of a resident assistant is in the name: assistant,” Isaac McCourt said when talking about his responsibilities as a former resident assistant (RA) in Clayton Hall.
Being one of the most experienced RAs on campus, McCourt said that the 2021 fall semester has been one of the weirdest semesters for all AU students, faculty and staff, including himself.
Due to COVID-19, new protocols and policies have been set in place to ensure the health and safety of every member of the community. However, McCourt pointed out that both enforcement and compliance regarding protocol has been a split issue among students.
“There are those who don’t really care about Covid and those who fear for their lives,” he said.
During these times controlled by coronavirus, Caitlynn Hamilton, former Housing Coordinator, says ResLife and its main operation during a global pandemic is to provide a duty of care.
“We are doing our best to maintain a safe environment for all students to feel like they are not at risk in their ‘homes’ here on campus when it comes to interacting and engaging with peers,” Hamilton said when asked about the role of ResLife during this time.
“I am grateful to work at an institution that has simplified our process to make sure that as few people have to interact with students who have been exposed as possible,” She added.
With this caution in mind, Hamilton still encourages the engagement of students on a comfortable level and especially while remaining socially distanced.
McCourt said that he has had many memories and experiences with being an RA and acknowledges that although he is an authoritative figure in the eyes of his residents, he finds the protocol difficult to enforce saying that you can never know which opinion you are walking into.
Because of this, McCourt has noticed that many of his residents are less willing to communicate, open up to him or attend floor programs.
“I want my residents to be comfortable with me and see me as an outlet for them rather than being a position of authority to them,” he said. “I am not a hall monitor, looking for a reason to write you up. I’m just here to help whenever I am needed.”
Ty Young is an RA with one year of experience under her belt and, along with McCourt, sees issues with student compliance of university protocol.
Young said that being an RA is an adjustment and although it is fun and rewarding, being an RA during a global pandemic makes things difficult.
“Many residents give RAs a hard time for enforcing these policies that every student was very much aware of,” Young said when talking about half of the student body who refuses to wear masks properly. “Certain issues become political statements rather than simple policy enforcement. Just wear your mask.”
Young continues saying that the way students react to COVID-19 protocol confuses her.
Although COVID-19 has caused a divide within the student body and has made it difficult for RAs to connect with their residents, it has not been the only reason.
The 2020 Presidential Election has caused a great divide between the student body with one of the main issues being inequality on campus.
Young is also a member of Black Fork Review and Eagles for Pride, as well as president of Black Student Alliance, advocating heavily for racial equality as well as social and human rights.
“Although my staff is already pretty diverse,” she said. “If you are a person of color, please apply to be an RA.”
Young states her reasoning behind applying stems from her own experience during her freshman year saying that she was never comfortable going to her RA for help.
“She didn’t see my issues as valid issues and never helped me,” Young recalled. “So I applied so that I could make sure other residents wouldn’t feel the same way.”
Young’s belief is that an RA needs to be sympathetic and understanding as well as helpful to their residents, saying that she believes McCourt was one of the best RAs at managing situations and issues that needed careful mediation.
The job of an RA is to assist and help residents in any way he or she can. However, both Young and McCourt, as well as every other RA, put their health, safety and academics first before anything else.
“Being an RA has never gotten in the way of school for me,” McCourt said. “But there are times when you have to sit down and help, and most people have issues saying no.”
“I have always been good at public speaking and I actually didn’t apply to be an RA,” McCourt continued. “I was volunteered by my RA with a box of doughnuts when I was a freshman, and I’m glad I went to the interview. I have learned to be mindful of others and have sit-down talks whenever serious issues arise.”
McCourt stresses that every RA wants to help their residents in any way they can, saying, “If they can’t do it on our own, they’ll always point you in the right direction.”

A Myers Hall floor planned a day where residents were able to tie dye shirts, socks and masks. (ZOE BOGARTY)