Being a Residential Assistant (RA) at Piedmont College comes with many consequences that RAs do not expect..
According to Mark Jestel, current Residential Director (RD) of Piedmont College, the role of an RA is to, “create and maintain a safe, orderly and supportive environment for their residents.” RAs sign up for the job with the intent to keep their residents safe; however, the line between safety, responsibilities, and the definition of innocent fun seems to be unclear.
“A hammock,” said former Residential Assistant Caitlyn Worthy. “I got forced to tell my residents who were having harmless fun to take down their hammock.”
Unsure why she had to confiscate the hammock, Worthy explained her first forced write-up between her residents and herself as former RD, Cordell Jones. He gave Worthy no option but to act on this situation with no explanation of how the act of harmlessly sitting in a hammock is dangerous.
“I felt awful for ruining their good time that was clearly not harming anyone, but I had to do my job,” she said.
Worthy remembers feeling upset that her residents would not like or trust her after having to confiscate their hammock. Worthy was responding to her superior’s wishes by removing the item.
After speaking with multiple former and current RAs, Worthy is not the only RA of Piedmont that has felt forced into responding unfairly to their residents by their supervisors. Of these RAs, it is understood that there is a large responsibility that comes with the job, but there is a difference between safety concerns and harmless fun. Actions like these cause RAs on campus to be seen as the “bad guy” seeking to write up their residents for no real offense. It is detrimental to the college experience, not only for residents, but for the RAs as well. Forced write-ups cause lack of trust for a RA’s residents which ultimately leads to a change in a RA’s social life.
“I signed up to be an RA because I needed cheaper college,” said former RA Madison Comer since RAs receive half off the cost of their room and board on campus, “I got blocked from my friends Snapchat stories because they didn’t want me getting them in trouble.”
Most college memories are made from having good friends and a great social life, but being an RA comes with losing that aspect of the college experience.
“Early on, we are told we live in a fishbowl,” said current RA of three years Martin Gravely. However, Gravely agreed that he was not warned or aware of the side effects that come with being an RA. People treat these students differently, specifically because of the title “Residential Assistant”.
“I can tell things are different when I’m sitting with a group of friends all sharing stories,” first-year RA Christopher Bale explains. “They all stop talking, look at me and then change the topic, not wanting to get in trouble.”
Bale explains feeling socially distant from his peers. There is an obvious disconnect between RAs and regular students. When students sign up to be a RA, rules do not state how much one’s social life will change.
Jestel adds, “It is a big learning experience trying to figure out how to go about writing up your friends and understanding that you’re doing a job.”
But some Ras feel the rules are inconsistent, making it hard for RAs to understand the purpose of their job.
“There’s so much inconsistency in what we are told to do,” Gravely said. “I was told by an assistant resident director to make a room take down their Michelob Ultra flag. I confiscated it and gave it to my director, but the next day the flag was given back to the room by my RD.”
Gravely explains his actions against that room seem to have been pointless because of how his superiors acted. He says that he now looks like the bad RA by that room just from doing what he was told.
RAs feel as if they are walking on eggshells with the student body, as well as their bosses. Although they recognize that It is essential to ensure safety across campus, some feel the definition of “safety” seems to be misconstrued at Piedmont.
“Until these issues are addressed, I think there will be a decrease in students wanting to become RA’s in the next coming years.” said Christopher Bale who does not plan continuing his job as an RA at Piedmont College.