Sept. 4, 2020 | By Abby Mercier | Illustration by Jubilee Hernandez
Almost every college campus in the nation has one group of student leaders at its core: Residential Advisors. RAs are motivated, personable, and engaged members of their community who are seeking to provide a safer and more inclusive campus environment.
In years past, classes of RAs at Colorado College have made significant efforts to engage students in hall- and campus-wide events, protect students, andmitigate roommate conflicts. But, like everything else in our world, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our RAs and their job descriptions.
One Residential Advisor, currently living in Bemis Hall, who wished to remain anonymous, said of the new challenges they were facing in their position: “The most difficult part about the job right now is making sure everyone feels included and seen.”
This sentiment of inclusion appears to be heightened while the student body is practicing social distancing. For example, there are not many students back in Bemis —which typically houses sophomores and juniors — and that can make it difficult to reach out to residents.
Residential Advisor Saluja Siwakoti ’21 echoed the feeling of disconnection from her residents, especially as it relates to ensuring the physical and mental well-being of those around her.
Both RAs explained that operating under the pandemic has come with new responsibilities: aiding Sodexo in cleaning common spaces, knocking on residents’ doors when there are too many people in the room, encouraging students to practice social distancing and to wear masks, and being more knowledgeable about connecting students to campus resources.
“Handling the Loomis quarantine definitely stretched my abilities,” said Loomis RA Tia Vierling ’22. Vierling noted the volume of residents’ questions has been significantly heightened thus far.
Although this is a lot more than a typical year would require, the RAs were emphatic that they do not need to be incentivized to do their jobs — rather, they are concerned with providing residents the best experience, given the circumstances.
When asked about their concern for their personal safety, the Bemis RA and Siwakoti both indicated they felt safe working in Bemis and El Diente, respectively, but felt for the RAs situated in the larger dormitories (South, Mathias, and Loomis Halls).
In response to the same question, Vierling, working in Loomis Hall, describes her status as “not really [worried] at the moment, but I’m sure that could change.”
On a more positive note, I spoke to the RAs regarding what they were excited about for the upcoming year: beyond school starting and meeting others, “dance workshop and keeping other senior traditions alive!” had Siwakoti jazzed about her senior year.
RAs are in a unique position on campus, with the ability to interact with professional staff such as Residential Life Coordinators, Deans, and others. With this in mind, I asked both Siwakoti and the Bemis RA what they hoped the CC administration would do to support them this year.
Their responses were to increase transparency regarding COVID-19 case numbers by updating the COVID-19 webpage, and to consider offering RAs (especially in Loomis, Mathias, and South Halls) hazard pay for the extenuating circumstances and responsibilities of their role.
When asked what students can do to support RAs in their positions this year, Siwakoti said, “Don’t make us tell you to wear a mask or social distance!”
“The less COVID related stupidity, the better,” Vierling said.