The author at the Marist RA banquet, holding the Outstanding Community Development Award. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Travers

The invincibility and independence that many feel during their first semesters at college is suddenly shattered when the steady bass bumpin’ beat on Friday nights is turned off and the fun is broken up by the loathed resident assistant. Nothing kills the dorm party buzz quite like the infamous knock-knock-knock on your door and the dreaded entry of the RA into the dorm room “pre-game” jungle.

Many students live in either perpetual fear or abhorrence of their RA, the individual who, ironically, is employed for their well-being, safety and potential friendship.  As an RA with a semester of experience on the front lines, I’ve seen and heard it all: the tears, the screams, the fights, the puke, the 2 a.m. call that a resident’s toenail is falling off (I’ll spare you the gory details of that one). But in between the carnage that periodically occurs while on duty, I truly enjoy the job of being an RA. The epic RA battle sagas are not the reason why I find pride in this job. Rather, the residents whom I have gotten to know and help over the course of the year make the never-ending tasks rewarding.

The commandments of being an RA mandates us to wear many hats: the mentor, the community developer, the educator, the counselor, the conduct monitor — all of which are in place to help make your life as a student as easy and as pleasant as it can possibly be. When examining the title itself, resident assistant, it is evident that we are here to assist you. So where is the love, ya’ll? Well, in order to help you understand how to utilize your RA (hey, we don’t go through two weeks of summer training just to break up your Friday night power hour) we need to begin by investigating the common myths associated with the job. The agenda today calls for an in-depth analysis of what has been dubbed “The Power Trip Theory.”

Ah, if I had a dime for every time I heard the line “RAs are just on a power trip, out to ruin our lives,” I’d have a nice little stash of cash for myself. Yee be warned: Don’t flatter yourself, kids. I can think of 20 things I would rather be doing than sleuthing around the halls with my ears pressed to doors wishing, hoping, praying that I’ll hear the slam of a shot glass or the cracking open of a beer. In the early days of the semester, when taking the time to get to know each of my residents with daily visits to check in on them, I drove this singular point home: You respect me, I respect you, it is that simple. This environment of mutual respect is essential when developing a strong community and interpersonal dynamic. The simple truth is this: I will not go hunting for you unless you put me in that position as a result of your own actions.

The idea here is when you get to know your RA and see that they are students with similar interests and concerns as you — ace-ing that bio test Monday, applying for that big summer internship, loving the new Lady Gaga single, whatever it may be — you will understand the concept of the position that they are in. RAs are not the fun police, the almighty-supreme leaders of the dorm, or your housing office’s bewitched minions to make your life a living nightmare. Oftentimes, documenting student conduct offenses is the least appealing part of the job (paperwork, judicial hearings, etc.). The job is not an easy undertaking — we have to be there for you but also, if necessary, document your rule-breaking behavior, which is a seemingly paradoxical relationship. However, in the social contract that is college housing, we as constituents need to take responsibility for our actions, whether it is blaring your Deadmau5 after quiet hours or cramming 50 people in your 10-by-15 room for some Friday night activities.

My friends, the point I am trying to drive home is not to let nonsense such as the Power Trip Theory define your relationship with your RA or negatively impact your on-campus living experience. Keep in mind: It’s not just your individual RA’s job to know the rules. You have an obligation to read through them as well and hold up your end of the bargain. In understanding that your RA’s main job purpose is to assist you in a positive way, as well as respecting the function of their job, we can all peacefully coexist in residence life paradise. Now everyone sing with me, kumbayah.

Kaitlin Travers is a junior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., majoring in political science. In addition to working as a resident assistant, she is an admissions office ambassador, intern for the Dutchess County Legislature Chairman, and the global correspondent for NextGen Journal. Follow her on Twitter.

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