OPINION: The RAs need more

By Daniel Mesquiti | March 28, 2022 8:55pm

Photo courtesy of Daniel Mesquiti.

They are students, nurses, educators, engineers, biologists, philosophers and more. They are make-shift medics/therapists/custodians/event planners/delegators/advocators. They are awake until 2 a.m. doing final rounds and get out of bed for their 8 a.m. class. They celebrate your highs and hold you at your lows. They would drop most things to help you when you need it, not just because it’s their job, but because they truly care. They are your RAs.

Did you know your RA also: has several other jobs on and off campus, works 10-30 hours a week as an RA alone, acts in place of missing senior staff, skips meals due to an inflexible meal plan, was cussed out and unsupported by senior staff, had to advocate for the identity of queer students, feels inadequately compensated, and is extremely burnt out? 

Well, if you didn’t, now you do.

Despite all the late nights, frustrations, and emotional, physical, and mental fatigue we experience, we continue to give our residents all we are and our absolute best. We continue this job because we love our dorm and its residents. All we want is for someone to hear and support us, recognize our exhaustion, and make change happen. That is yet to happen.

Last semester I asked RAs across campus to take what I called the RA Satisfaction Survey. The intent was to gauge what experience the RAs on campus were having. Since this is not something that is explicitly done by our directors, I thought it would be a great opportunity to have RAs anonymously share how they felt without the fear of consequences present. The intent was to share the results with the greater UP community because it is important for RAs to have their voices heard in an unrestricted, truthful manner.

The intention of the survey was to give RAs a platform to speak freely and share their frustrations. It was not a jab or attack at the ResLife office or the RA position but was instead information to consider for future semesters. The goal was not to deter people from being RAs or to paint the position in a negative light, but to reveal the challenges and joys that come with the job. The hope was that the reader would view the responses and hopefully gain more appreciation for these student employees. They deserve that and so much more.

The article put out by The Beacon on March 16 titled “RAs struggle, seek more support amidst pandemic” was insufficient in delivering the message above and the survey answers that were collected. The RAs did and still do feel inadequately supported and insufficiently compensated by ResLife and some senior staff. The Beacon directly received the statement above along with the survey results and were explicitly asked to share the responses collected. Sadly, they were unable to do that for several reasons, most of which I understand. When RAs were asked for their thoughts on the published Beacon article, some described it as “the VERY tip of the iceberg,” “surface level,” and “sugarcoated and dulled down.” Though the author’s time and effort are more than greatly appreciated and respected, as is all the effort put in by others at The Beacon, we were hopeful that the true message of this article would be delivered in the final product, but it was not. I hope that those who read this piece and view the survey results can understand what current RAs have had to deal with this year and join them in advocating for greater support and compensation in the future.

If you would like to view the results of the survey, you can email me (mesquiti23@up.edu) or find the link to the survey results in my Instagram bio (@dt_mesq). I’m working to find ways to make these results more available to students, but those are two ways to view them as of now.

Daniel Mesquiti is a junior RA in Lund Family Hall. He can be reached at mesquiti23@up.edu.

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