Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

RAs create sense of community

Being a residential advisor is a lot more than monitoring the halls and getting free housing, said Ross Bryan, director of residential communities.

There are 212 residential advisors in dorms and apartments across campus, monitoring halls, answering phone calls and helping their residents in any way they can. Although their goal is to keep students safe, Bryan said RAs hope to educate rather than police the halls.

“RAs have to be a big brother, a big sister, a role model, a best friend and have to care about people on a higher level,” Bryan said. “I hope [residents] see them more as a friendly role rather than a police force. I think there’s some of that lingering, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Some of our students need a nudge in the right direction.”

That right direction means RAs are required to report any underage drinking or other illegal activities going on in their hall. Christina Pearson, an RA in Riverside, said it’s hard to catch everyone who isn’t following the rules, especially in a suite-style dorm.

“Seeing and knowing about it are two different things,” Pearson said. “You know it goes on, but in a suite-style dorm it’s hard to catch it because they’re in their own rooms. The smell of alcohol is what gives it away; you can smell it throughout the entire hall.”

Pearson said despite having an incident of dishonesty in the past, she completely trusts her residents.

“There has only been one experience I’ve had when I had to break up an underage drinking party,” Pearson said. “The people gave me a list of names but a lot of them weren’t even enrolled in the University. But I feel like I have a good enough relationship with my residents that they would tell me the whole truth. I don’t want think my residents would lie to me. I have a lot of respect for them, and I think they’re good people.”

Pearson said her main job is to help students acclimate to their new home, and working as a student makes her job easier.

“It makes it easier to relate to students because I am a student,” Pearson said. “The older you are, the more they see you as an authority figure. You’re more relatable because you’re involved in the organizations they’re in and you’re on their level.”

In an e-mailed interview, Ryan Hofman, community director in Paty, Blount, Friedman, Palmer and Somerville, said although the RA job is tough, most students apply for the position for the right reasons.

“The RA position is a tough job, probably one of the most difficult undergraduate positions on campus,” Hofman said. “They must balance their academics, the resident advisor position and their social life. During the RA interview process we often ask a student why they want to become a resident advisor, and it nearly always goes back to a story about the interactions, programs, kindness and help their current resident advisor offers to those on the floor.”

Not only is the RA the first student their residents will meet, but they will help residents build a tight-knit community in their residence hall, Hofman said. They are there to educate residents, not discipline them.

“The RAs are also educators,” Hofman said. “They are modeling how to live and work within a community, how to be part of a community and to make that community develop. We are educating students for real life, how to live, work and relate to others. Just as the classroom prepares them with the tools to succeed [in their careers], we prepare them with the tools to succeed in the real world.”

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