“So, why did you become a Resident Advisor?” I distinctly remember last Fall, shortly after I completed RA training, a resident asked me this for the first time. For a moment, I was stumped; in part because I was surprised a resident would care, but also because I did not have a concrete answer. As an intuitive individual, becoming an RA just felt right for me and it quickly became a very dominant part of my identity. Throughout the remainder of the year, I would often stop and ask myself: “Why do I want to be an RA?”
At times this question was extremely difficult to answer. As I began to find my footing as an RA, friends would ask me questions like, “are you a hardo RA or are you more chill?”. Even my teammates were in disbelief that I would write them up–that was of course until I did write them up and then they were just angry with me. This became a theme throughout the year as I documented more and more of my peers. I can recall a conversation I had last Spring with a resident who pleaded with me not to submit an incident report because if I did, it would be my fault that his buddy got suspended.
I can assuredly say that while I can’t always explain why I do want to be an RA, I definitely know that getting my peers in trouble has never been apart of my explanation. If people really do feel that way about me, then I have truly failed at my job. In fact, I want to express to all those living with RAs this year that the documentation process is not about “getting you in trouble”. It is about the safety of the residents and the community and it is also about education. RAs do not get people in trouble. When I write someone up, I’m not assigning blame or handing out points. I’m literally just writing down what I see.
The conduct process is supposed to help students learn to own up to their actions and be accountable for their mistakes. This is part of the education portion of the conduct process that I think gets lost on many of my peers. As students in a higher education institution, the learning does not stop inside the classroom. In fact, we spend more time outside the classroom making it natural that our education extends past academics. In Residential Life, our goal is to provide an inclusive living environment that allows for personal growth in tandem with academic growth.
After discussing leadership styles with a fellow RA, I have an inkling as to why I have this innate calling for the RA position. “You make people feel valued,” my colleague said. I was drawn to Residential Life because on a psychological level I like to aid my peers in their own journeys of self-discovery and personal growth. I have found that the RA position has influenced my own personal development in more ways than one. I would much rather spend my nights giving residents advice and being able support to them than documenting people. However, to provide a space for development sometimes it is necessary to document my peers so that they can learn from their mistakes, recognize what it means to be a citizen of a community, and to grasp the significance of social responsibility.As the school year will soon be in full swing once again, realize that mistakes are inevitable. Sometimes an RA will be there to witness these mistakes. If you do get caught breaking policy, recognize the opportunity for growth in front of you. Realize that your RA knows it is a moment for personal growth as well. And maybe, just maybe, if you turn to your RA instead of turning on your RA, you both will walk away having learned something about yourselves.