On March 30th, 2016, The Ithacan posted an article discussing Resident Assistant compensation wherein the author asserted that RAs on Ithaca College’s campus feel that they are undercompensated, which not only failed to get basic facts and figures related to the RA position correct, but did not accurately reflect the views of the RAs who contributed. The factual errors underestimated the number of floor events RAs plan and how long it takes to plan them — it may take one hour to simply shop for an event, not counting the days or weeks spent planning out the details. I am a former RA for first year students, who voluntarily left the position because of the toll it took on my mental health. Though I agree that RAs are underpaid, I don’t believe money is the solution to the problem. The author chose to present a snippet of my words in a way that validated the story they were searching for, not the one that rings true for so many RAs on this campus.
I don’t know an RA who would assert, in seriousness, that the key to RA happiness starts with more money. Ithaca College, despite its high tuition rate, simply does not have the type of money to pay us realistically for the requirements of our position, and has been closing the gap to cover full room and board. The real problem with RA compensation is that no amount of money can make up for lost time, sleep, and mental state as a result of the job. This can be solved, in part, by rethinking the way Ithaca College approaches compensating the RA position.
ResLife should begin examining the ways it can make the job easier on its employees. Instead of requiring RA staff meetings for two hours, usually much longer than necessary, ResLife could reduce them by an hour, giving RAs back time each week. They could also work on making sure that all RAs live in double-sized rooms, so that RAs have adequate space for hosting residents, creating bulletin boards, and storing both RA and school work. A double room makes an RA’s space feel more inviting to residents and living in a bigger space can assist in separating work and home leading to improved mental health. As Molly Robbins suggested in the original article, ResLife could only charge RAs for double-sized rooms, seeing the size of RA rooms varies so much by placement, which we have little control over. These are just two of the many ideas RAs on campus consistently put forth to improve the quality of the position, which are often met with backlash. ResLife management claims there is nothing they can do, because other students will hold it against the department for giving RAs certain privileges they don’t have access to.
There is a greater problem outside of the realm of compensation at play here. ResLife could do more to educate the rest of the community about the nature of our position. The disconnect is seen in statements along the lines of “Well I’m just as busy with my extracurriculars, and I don’t even get paid — why do they deserve more?” To that question, I respond, who let you sit in their room in your towel while they got you a key? Who was there to help you problem solve after a fight with your roommate? Who made sure you were safe after a night of drinking? Most likely, an RA.
Somewhere along the way, RAs got so good at their job of being there for their residents, ResLife started to take for granted the needs of their RAs. The minute you step into the RA role, you take on a lifestyle that is much more demanding than a typical college student’s. RAs simply want their compensation to reflect that in ways that money can’t buy. Had the author of the article mentioned above listened to anything the RAs they interviewed were actually saying, that would have been the story she wrote.
Junior music education and performance major, former RA