Every student who lives on campus knows who the Resident Assistants (RAs) are—but some may be unclear on the responsibilities RAs have within the community. Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s focus on Student Life has been pushed to the forefront as new leadership has been introduced. With that, the RAs say they think it’s important for students to know exactly what it is they do.
“We’re supposed to foster a healthy environment for students to live in that helps their educational experience,” Nicholas Thomas, a senior Creative Writing and Literature student and RA for the A/B apartments, says. It is an RA’s responsibility to keep students safe and happy, which means enforcing policies and rules is an important part of the job. It’s also a part of the job some students may not like.
“The hardest part is when we have to deal with conduct or discipline issues,” Emily Curley, a junior Technical Theatre major, says. “So if there’s alcohol or drugs or some kind of violence, dealing with that kind of situation is the hardest because I don’t want to have to be an authority figure that way, but holding people accountable is also part of the job.”
For some, being an RA has taken a toll on their personal relationships. “It’s the social side, for me, that’s really hard. There is an atmosphere that views RAs in a negative light,” Thomas says.
Because RAs are seen by many as authority figures, a distance has been created between them and the other students on campus. While they do have different responsibilities, RAs say that they also want to be seen as students just like everyone else—ones who are trustworthy and available whenever needed. “You can always knock on our doors. And if we’re not there, leave us a note. We will get back to you, that is our job. It is our job to make sure that you are happy and OK,” Megan Colburn, a junior Theatre major and RA for St. Mike’s Hall, says.
RAs work not only to keep students safe, but to create a stable community among students all around campus. The sense of community between RAs is especially strong this year, with new Housing Manager Timothy Chambers and Director of Student Life Ryan Davis on board and putting teamwork on the high priority list.
Because RAs aren’t allowed to talk about incidents or student matters with their friends, there are many times when other RAs are the only people that they can turn to when they’re coping with their responsibilities or feeling stressed out. Colburn says she feels lucky to have the support system created by Chambers and Davis. “While in the past that has been a really big issue, I know that I can go and talk to them about things that I’m dealing with and how it’s been affecting me,” Colburn says.
There are many RAs who are involved in Student Life in more ways than one, whether they are members of Student Voice, Student Activities Board, or the plethora of other student organizations that were created in order to bring students together. Because of that, RAs seem to be especially passionate about bringing their peers closer together and spreading a positive message throughout SFUAD. “We really care. We’re doing our best. Everyone on the RA team is there because they want the community to be better,” Curley says. “Without community, I believe that there can be very little to no positive progress. Communities can do greater things than a single person can do alone.”
Along with all of the serious responsibilities bestowed upon them, RAs like to have fun as well. Each semester they are in charge of decorating their halls with whatever themes they want, as well as coming up with hall events that will bring their residents closer together. Thomas says there are already lots of plans in the works, including a huge NERF war in the near future.
As RAs continue to fulfill their responsibilities around campus, they say they hope that students start to look at them in a more positive light.
“There’s this moment when you’ve gotten to know your hall, and you’ll walk from your room to end of the hall,” says Curley. “People’s doors will be open and they’ll all say hi to you. You’re friends, you’re close. I like that moment of connection.”