Ithaca College’s resident assistants are among the most stressed students on campus, filling a position notoriously strenuous in responsibilities but lacking in a compensation that is proportionate to these duties.
Especially in first-year housing, RAs have more responsibilities than ever before in a model that integrates academic life into residential life. The Integrative Core Curriculum adds a whole new layer of programming and planning involving the six themes that RAs did not have to deal with before, leaving many frustrated at the extra effort resulting in dismal attendance at theme-based programs.
The job of a resident assistant should be round-the-clock in terms of being a role model and mentor for younger students, but the program at the college takes this 24/7 responsibility to a new level. Rather than a job that entails getting to know younger students on a personal level and being an example for them, the RA position is overwhelmed with paperwork and meetings and obligations to keep detailed logs multiple times a semester of each resident’s thoughts and feelings. Many RAs agree that the nature of the job at the college involves many little things that add up and are not included in the job description.
No doubt, then, the Office of Residential Life needs candidates who are prone to busyness and can handle such a workload. Thus, the type of people who would gravitate toward RA positions are the ones who are most involved on campus. Res Life looks for these people yet has designed a set of expectations that render RAs unable to be as involved in other areas of campus life without sacrificing significant sleep and mental health. This is contradictory. There needs to be a better work-life balance — the kind that RAs are supposed to promote among their residents.
Instead, many find the task of balancing personal academics with RA responsibilities daunting under the perceived expectation that they must place RA duties ahead of everything else. People quit under this pressure. Others begin to resent the job they worked so hard to get. And those who truly love the job regardless of the workload sacrifice a great deal of sleep.
At comparable institutions, RAs are being compensated for the price of full room and board, and at some colleges, the price of a more expensive single room. The compensation for Ithaca College RAs, which covers less than room and board for a double room, is not on par with a program that demands so much out of these students.