Pop Quiz: Which do you think is the most frightening? University Police. Your professor’s office hours. The RA. Pencils down. Did you say the RA? Probably. While frightening or intimidating, annoying or pandering, friendly or parental, they really aren’t that bad.
I am actually proud to admit that I was a resident advisor. Hopefully you didn’t read that as the Big Bad Wolf, because we aren’t there to be the huff and puff to blow your fun away, we’re there to help. If we’re there to huff and puff anything, it’ll be to blow you in the right direction. Going into your first year of college, your mind will flip in to sensory overload. Why? Between your parents, your new roommate who took the side you wanted, and the fact that you’re moving fifty boxes of clothes in to an 11’x15’ room, there is definitely too much going on at one time. But when you check in, you’ll meet the RA and at that moment, you can never forget them. They will be chipper, affable, annoying, and probably on so much caffeine that they’ll be jumping off the walls. But like any other person you will meet in college, whether they’re a professor or a floor-mate, every one isn’t who they appear to be at first glance. RA’s are no exception to the judgmental college condition.
In a way, when we’re in “full RA mode” we wear masks. It’s not to hide who we truly are or how we feel, but it’s more focused on creating a boundary. What’s important to us is that you’re safe, but you want to enjoy your first year in college. Due to that, two things will inevitably happen: you will do something stupid and you will hate us for writing you up.
The start of any typical RA-type day begins with putting on a mask. While sweaty and disgusting, it’s something we’re obligated to do. For the most part, it includes enforcing rules and policies, of which you will occasionally break or rebel against. First things first, you probably shouldn’t be breaking the rules to begin with, mostly because they’re set in place for one thing: your safety. And that’s what they’ll explain to you. I had a resident my first year as a resident advisor who I decided to do something stupid, I’m not at liberty to say what exactly, but it was very, insanely stupid. I had to “document” him. Think of documentation as getting caught drunk by your parents; we’re upset you did it, you get in trouble, and you learn a lesson. After that night, they wouldn’t make eye contact with me. When we would wait for the elevator, they wouldn’t respond to any kind of communication. That one person made me question whether or not the job was worth it. That’s all it takes—one person. We aren’t molded to be mean or sticklers or the dorm cops. Ask any RA you meet, and nine times out of ten, that’s the one part of the job we hate. And contrary to popular belief, sticks are not permanently inserted up where the sun don’t shine.
I’ll admit that we’re intimidating one-on-one. We’re wide-eyed and willing to bestow a year’s worth of knowledge, while all you want to know is how to get to the dining hall. If you’re brave enough to withstand the bad wolf’s blow, you’ll be fortunate enough to meet the person behind the mask, a person that’s just like you. My second year as a resident advisor, I had a resident who constantly asked me if I used the restroom. For the record, I do use the restroom; it was just a rarity to see this particular person when the need arose. This went on for an entire year, I would sit on my couch and they would ask me, “Do you go to the bathroom,” and I’d respond, “Of course I do!” On one fateful day, they saw me come out of the restroom and they exclaimed, “You do use the restroom!” and offered a high five. I offered my elbow instead, for hygienic reasons. It’s bizarre being asked that question day in and day out, because it made me wonder what the fascination is with my bowel movements. Could it be that they were worried that I had an infection or that I had some secret toilet? Those questions don’t matter, because they actually took the time to think about me as a person. After a semester, I didn’t feel like a boss or unapproachable. I was just a person. The moral of the story is this: when you, the resident, take the time to actually get to know us, we’re not all terrifying wolves. We’re more like needy dogs that want your love and attention. You make our jobs worth having; you give RA’s a purpose. Like I said, all it takes is one person.