Resident Advisers Survive ‘Crash Course in Calamity’

by Brian Hudson

Transylvania University is a relatively small community of approximately 1,100 students. Everybody, at the very least, can recognize almost everyone else. However, on top of this mutual familiarity between Transy’s students, there are a few students that are particularly aware of the campus community — namely, the resident advisers.
Everybody recognizes the RAs, especially when they’re on duty, and their tell-tale polo shirts and walkie-talkies give them up a mile away. However, despite that, very few people know much at all about our RAs.

The process of becoming a resident adviser begins many months before the jobs are given out. Applications are put out on Inside Transy during winter term every year.
Once all of the applications are in, the residence life staff brings the applicants together for an event called Carousel. Carousel is an opportunity, according to Farrah Dicken, assistant director of residence life, for “the staff to evaluate group dynamics.” All of the applicants are split up into groups and take part in various activities.
At the end of Carousel, the staff scores all of the applicants and makes its first cut in order to narrow down the selection pool. This pruning is necessary, as there are only 24 RAs needed every year, so applicants are cut based on the observations of the residence life staff. Dicken said that they look for applicants who are “welcoming, but not overbearing, … confident, but not off-putting.”

After Carousel, the applicants who make the cut go through a series of interviews, including one with Dicken, one with Director of Residence Life Robert Brown and one with one of the newly appointed head advisers. If all goes well for an applicant in this phase of the process, he or she may be selected to become a resident adviser for the next academic year.

After the selection, new RAs waste little time in beginning the training that will be extremely important for their new jobs. During the spring, new RAs begin shadowing the current RAs, talking to them about their duties and following them when they go on rounds. They also go ahead and complete first aid and CPR certification training.
More intensive training takes place in the summer, during which the RAs go through team-building exercises and learn to work well with each other.

After retreat, the RAs come back to Transy and become well-versed in almost all aspects of the school and trained how to handle any conceivable issue that they might face on the job. One of the most intense training exercises that the RAs go through is called “Behind Closed Doors.” This exercise is a role-playing activity where returning RAs act out situations inside of dorm rooms and the new RAs, upon opening the doors to these scenarios, must respond appropriately.

Sophomore Cameron Lindsey, who is the RA for the third floor of Clay Hall, described one such scenario: “There’s loud music playing, people are partying and doing drugs, there’s somebody hiding in the closet, someone seizing on the bed and another person is trying to jump out of the window.”

Sophomore Cory Collins, the RA for Clay’s second floor, described it as “a crash course in every calamity possible.” “Behind Closed Doors” is one of the last steps of an RA’s training before move-in day. They receive feedback based on their performance and are ready to begin their duties as the first-years move in.

However, despite all of this training that they’ve received in order to be able to help campus residents, RAs seem to catch a lot of flak from the student population.

“I think there’s this perception that RAs love writing people up,” Dicken said, “and that’s not true at all. We love it when we don’t find anything on rounds.”

“We aren’t out to be the fun police,” said senior Alicia Winans, one of the head advisers. “We’re students first, and the only reason we take this job is to make sure that everyone turns out all right in four years.”

“It’s not really based on money for any of us,” said Lindsey. “If it was, we’d just go out and get a normal job.”

Lyman Stone, the RA for the third floor of Davis Hall, summed up the job of the resident advisers.

“(RAs) are there to, insofar as it is possible, ensure that our campus culture is a responsible and productive one,” said Lyman Stone.


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