Resident Assistants: The Backbone of Community/by Rachel Smith
If you ask a student what makes a college campus home, they will generally say something abstract, like community, roommates, or the independence they have been long awaiting. But what makes Mississippi College home are the Resident Assistants (RAs) that host each individual student and foster their stay here, going above and beyond for their every need.
RAs, known for dormitory checks and enforcing rules, are truly the binds of community and a comforting hand throughout your years at college. However, as COVID-19 has swept away the social contact which students have been accustomed to before the pandemic, the virus has given RAs just as many obstacles to endure, and overcome.
RAs have been forced to embody one word through these unprecedented circumstances: adaptable. As rules and regulations alter on a moment’s notice, RAs have had to respond to administrative decision making that alters based on any newfound CDC information. These changes include, but are not limited to, ensuring students wear masks properly, maintaining health procedures, and creatively engaging in community with their residents.
The hosts of our halls learned adaptability from the very beginning of the 2020 school year when administration informed them that they had one day of training before jumping into the job. Even for students that are second or third year resident assistants, the job as a whole had changed from what they previously experienced.
Morgan Henry is a returning RA who oversaw the freshman girls’ dorm East Tower last year and now serves in West Tower, an upperclassman girls’ dorm. Henry was asked if the community in her current halls has looked different from the previous year. “From my hall last year, it’s much more disconnected. All residents really have their roommate now. It’s been harder to build community across the hall when I never have anyone in one sitting except for Zoom meetings,” said Henry. It has been challenging to try to relate to people, but that has made Henry more intentional in getting to know her residents. “No more movie nights in my room,” she said.
Through the rushed training process for RAs, it was a struggle to learn the new procedures. “Our training this year was shorter and normally we would have a week for training, but this time it was just a day of training. And now, we’re all constantly relearning the job,” said Henry. For RAs that were new to the job, like Oliva Perkins, this was a different story. “I don’t have much to compare it to, but there was a strong emphasis on masks and the new regulations that you will have to enforce, especially when there is no visitation for both the opposite and same gender,” said Perkins.
While suite-style, premium housing certainly has great appeal, community dorms seem to have their perks during the COVID-19 era. Perkins was asked if RAs have seen a loss of interaction with their hallmates. “They definitely have between each other. Community dorms still maintained some community because you would see people more frequently in the bathrooms and halls,” said Perkins.
Although there have been many challenges for RAs with sporadic instances like floods, fires, and infractions, they have remained steadfast and never cease to come to any of their residents’ aid. Whether it’s carrying mattresses to other dorms for students evacuating their dorms damaged in the fire or sending self-care packages to their rooms in the middle of midterms week, your RAs will rush to your side. With this kind of service and dedication, even COVID could not hinder them from doing their job exceptionally well.