Dorm days: The life of a resident assistant

As any resident assistant can attest, the RA position is one of the most challenging, albeit rewarding, student jobs on campus.

It all starts when RAs are handed their first roll of blue tape and told it is the only adhesive that can be used in the building. The problem, we soon find out, is that blue tape won't hold up toilet paper, let alone the decorations we spent hours making.

By the time RAs have painstakingly put up their decorations, only to watch them fall, it is time for the residents to arrive. It is not the students we worry about, however; it is the parents.

One memorable parent experience was when I witnessed a daughter refusing to let her mother back into the dorm. The mother begged me to let her in. But before I could say it was against policy, I had a sobbing mom on my shoulder. The only comfort I could offer is that her daughter would call when she needed money.

After the departure of the parents, it is time to have ""the talk."" One of the most important things residents learn from this fireside chat is not to drink in the dorms. One of my residents must have missed this part when he tried to sneak in alcohol in a gasoline can. I guess he thought a gas can would be less conspicuous than a handle of vodka.

The nights when RAs see the most action is when they are on duty. Duty requires RAs to drag themselves out of bed at odd hours of the night to tour the building.

Some of my best college memories have come from these duty nights. There was the time when I chased someone riding a motorbike through the residence halls. (Needless to say I never caught up.) There was the time a resident threw up on me. And of course, there was the time I found a hook-up occurring in one of the common areas. Awkward!

The most important responsibility while on duty is being the keeper of the duty phone. It is through this device that residents and RAs alike can alert those of us on duty to something that needs our attention. One of my favorite phone calls was from a bewildered RA who had just opened his door to find a big pile of poop.

When the duty phone rings, however, it is most likely a resident who is locked out. My favorite lockout story occurred when the resident I was helping exclaimed, ""Dude, can you hurry this up! My roommate and my girlfriend locked me out of my room - I don't know what they are doing in there!""

Speaking of roommates, roommate conflicts are probably the thing RAs deal with the most. This is completely understandable, seeing that residents are thrown into a tiny box and told to live in harmony with a perfect stranger. Yet at first, this task seems like a piece of cake to residents. RAs call this the honeymoon period.

In about a month, the roommate issues start popping up. They range from the solvable (""My roommate won't take a shower. Ever."") to the impossible (""I hate everything about my roommate.""). I dealt with one roommate who was so unclean his idea of laundry included placing his clothes in a garbage bag, spraying Febreze into the bag and shaking.

Through the tears and the yelling, however, it is always rewarding to see residents work through their differences and come to tolerate one another.

But above all, the best thing about being an RA is having the honor to make an impact on UA underclassmen. I have had the pleasure of watching 60 residents grow from unsure recent high school graduates to mature, responsible college students.

And so, as my RA career is drawing to a close, I just wanted every one who has ever had an RA to know how much you mean to us. Thanks, residents, for making our college experiences that much more memorable. And next time, don't forget your keys!


Jessica Wertz is a senior majoring in family studies and human development and psychology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu


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