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Commentary: Being an RA is the best on-campus job

Senior+Violet+Van+Buren+writes+about+her+positive+experiences+as+an+RA+and+tells+students+to+take+advantage+of+the+benefits+that+come+with+the+position.
Kaeleigh Banda
Senior Violet Van Buren writes about her positive experiences as an RA and tells students to take advantage of the benefits that come with the position.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest commentary. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.

My name is Violet Van Buren, and I’m a lover of good company, crazy stories, quiet relaxation and Terrace 12, where I have been a resident assistant the past three years. This is my last semester living in the best room on campus, and with all of the sadness that comes with leaving the position, so too comes the gratefulness that I was ever an RA at all. It’s impossible to convince me there is a single better job to take as an Ithaca College student.

The very best part of being an RA is the friends you make. I’ve just participated in my fifth RA training, so you’d think I’d seen it all before by now, right? Courses on how to handle confrontation, mediation and sensitive subjects can only go so far. Well, what continues to shock me is how a large group of like-minded individuals can be so comforting and challenging to be around at the same time. 

RAs are a strange batch, but we all share the same genuine care for the community around us. With so many passionate and talented people in close proximity, it feels as though your skills and unique perspective truly have a place they can belong to and be utilized. 

At the same time, they can be challenged and transformed because everyone else has their own ideas about how to create change in the greater community. All of these opinions amount not to an echo-chamber, but to a swarm of diverse people finding the very best solutions to the problems we all face on campus. 

It’s not only other RAs that you bond with, though. It’s your residents, too. The sense of community one nurtures through their building can be so strong by the end of a year that I have found myself sad to see folks move out and move on. It’s a relationship unlike any other — to be there for a person you barely know and to become friends over time through that trust. I am more empathetic, more grounded and in a thousand other smaller ways, I can say I have grown.

Being an RA is not a difficult job until it is. And when it is, it feels like the hardest job in the world. I have encountered so many seemingly impossible and crazy situations — from little things, like unjamming a dryer, to big ones, like making a call and saving someone’s life. I have life skills that I’d never have if I hadn’t signed myself up to be on the first line of defense. 

We are the first people to find you passed out on the bathroom floor. The first ones to escort you safely from the parking lot. The ones who notice when you are struggling with your mental health. It’s a thankless job — and often not a pretty one. But I am filled with an enormous sense of well-being to serve my community in this way. I think doing so is less and less popular these days, and it’s a shame. There’s nothing better than the feeling of helping someone else, and what better job to feel that than to be an RA here?

With any job comes benefits, and this position has some great ones. Namely: pay and the single room. Room and board are covered 80% if you’ve been an RA for less than two semesters and 100% after two semesters. For the amount you work, the reliable hours and the convenience of the job, the pay is fair. The room and board also comes with a single room. I love having a space that is my own — where I can play my own music, keep it clean and tidy and exercise on my balcony. Obviously, not every RA room is created equal, but the solitary space is priceless. Literally.

While the money is great and the single room is a definite perk, there is so much more to being an RA. Though most apply for the money, that’s just not what the job is really about. It’s about the friends you make, the skills you take away, the community and the benefits, small and large. 

My younger brother is a first-year student in college this year and the first thing I told him when he started school was “You’re literally stupid if you don’t apply to be an RA.” I get to tease him, but I won’t be so rude to all of you. I’ll leave you by instead saying — it doesn’t get better than this.

Violet Van Buren (she/her)  is a senior writing for film, tv, and emerging media major. Contact her at [email protected].

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Kaeleigh Banda, Assistant Photo Editor
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