“DJ, congratulations on your new appointment as Resident Assistant to Milton Daniel Hall.” Those words afforded me such excitement that only my fellow RA colleagues and past RAs can best articulate. Knowing that all your hard work, academically and socially, paid off by being elected to serve as an RA for TCU is not only a privilege, but also a life-changing experience. It creates a pathway to discovering yourself while maintaining a fine balance between embracing the extreme personalities and ethnic differences of students while implementing policies that are set by TCU.
How does one RA ensure that after socializing with residents who appear to show him/her respect they’re not automatically named the sinister Penguin from Tim Burton’s 1992 film “Batman Returns” when they turn their backs? The answer is communication.
If one can convey their expectations and personality efficiently to an individual of a totally different background, then they’ve gained an intangible asset that money can’t buy – respect. This is entirely true and invaluable for international students whether they’re an RA or a student. With respect comes understanding and friendship; then when a wrong is committed by a resident, whether it be intentional or unintentional, you know you’ve created a bond when the resident admittedly accepts his mistake or even goes further and wholeheartedly apologizes. That’s when you know you’re respected not only as an RA but also as a friend.
Yet some would argue that when a friendly bond has been initiated, a lot of lenience and flexibility will be expected for certain residents. They think because of the friendly attachment, they will be let off the hook. It’s honestly intriguing to observe how the non-verbal signs blatantly convey disdain that brews from within a resident, when he/she isn’t expecting a violation to be issued by “their friendly RA.” So how do RAs make sure they’re not putting themselves in a position where they’re going to be perceived as an untrustworthy individual, or worse, an untrustworthy friend?
Mariana Davies, an RA in Foster Hall, said as an RA, portraying herself as a fellow friend and resident is more significant than portraying herself as a stern disciplinarian.
“I would remain calm and collective and go ahead with procedure sternly and formally as an RA,” Davies said, “but at the same time, as a friend I’d sympathize and make sure to follow up and talk to them personally, but casually, to reassure them it won’t be the end of the world.”
If the resident still had any ill-feelings Davies said she would do her best to re-gain friendship through continued conversation.
Chris Cooksie, a Brachman Hall RA, shared the same view. However, he firmly stated that just because he’s jovial and outgoing, residents shouldn’t expect him to always be easy-going. He said students in a private institution should know right from wrong, that every action has a consequence and that they shouldn’t stoop to pleading, but rather accept their fault. He said he would still talk with a resident informally regarding the issue, but the resident can’t underestimate his role as an RA.
So how does an RA maintain integrity to both his duties and his residents?
As Davies said it best, “It’s best to act and be a friend at first.”
After all, as RAs, no matter what, we are here to help out all residents.
DJ Perera is a sophomore studio art major from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.