New RAs hired after resignations

Winter Quarter brings new Resident Advisors to replace those who quit

Kit Nowicki, Staff Writer

Several RA’s resigned from their positions following fall quarter, largely due to concerns about how SPU has handled COVID precautions. (Lizzie VanBrunt)

Over winter break, Residence Life worked to hire new Resident Advisors to take the place of those who resigned from their positions at the end of Autumn Quarter over concerns related to the COVID-19 crisis.

“There were just a lot of challenges immediately,” former RA Bea Bouman said, “Day two of training, school’s not even starting, and I’m like, ‘So, you guys don’t really have a plan to keep us safe,’ is what it felt like.”

Bouman had seen other American colleges successfully reopen their doors and thought that SPU would have a plan to also keep their students safe.

“So, that made me feel really nervous, but I was like, you know what, I will advocate for myself. I will ask for things that I think are good. Basically, I just got said, ‘no,’ to a lot especially at the start of ideas,” said Bouman.

Bouman suggested having all residents quarantine themselves upon first arriving back on-campus or having all residents be tested for COVID-19, similar to the protocol for Winter Quarter housing. Bouman’s floor was the site of the first positive test on campus, resulting in a 14-day quarantine. 

“So, that was a rough start, and my floor quarantined right away. The quarter just went on, and nothing was getting better. If anything, there were fewer rules, like people could hang out in each other’s rooms, and people could eat with whoever they want, and people could do whatever they want, but cases are still going up,” said Bouman.

Despite having support from their Residence Life Coordinators and fellow RAs, Bouman didn’t feel safe enough on-campus to stay.

“My supervisors, I had really great support from, and I really liked my staff- they were amazing- it just didn’t make it worth it especially having the experience of the year before to compare it to,” said Bouman.

Compared to their experience as an RA last Spring Quarter, Bouman said they were doing a lot more work both physically and emotionally but weren’t being paid more. They decided they would rather get a job off-campus and pay for off-campus housing than continue working as an RA for free room and board.

“Ultimately it came down to lack of support. I think ResLife is in a tough position, and I think they’re not rising to the challenge,” said Bouman.

Director of Residence Life, Gabe Jacobsen said there’s no good way to determine what kind of impact the transition of replacing an RA will have on a floor.

“Response after RAs have left their roles generally includes working out ways to make sure there is staffing coverage for the students affected in the short term and then deciding whether to subsume the area under another current RA or combination of staff (this approach is more typical in CHA) or finding replacements,” said Jacobsen.

To find a replacement they contact alternate selections from a previous years’ process to identify new candidates. Molly Callison, a new RA in Emerson, was recruited this way at the end of Autumn Quarter.

“The responsibilities are a little bit different this year for RA’s, and I felt like I could handle it,” said Callison, “I love Emerson, and I was really happy to help.”

Callison was one of several possible candidates asked to consider the position, being familiar with the building since having lived in Emerson.

“I took a long time to think about it because I wanted to make sure I was going into it properly, and it’s kind of a big decision. So, I accepted the position at the very beginning of break, and then I spent all of break doing most of the training,” said Callison.

Over break, Callison received training on biases and how to prepare her heart to be an RA. She completed her more practical training back on campus before meeting her residents.

“It’s been kind of pieced together, but I did a lot of the prep-work over break,” said Callison. “My residents are all so sweet and they’ve made me feel really welcome.”

The transition of stepping into an authority role on a floor was new to Callison as this is her first quarter as an RA, and has proven especially tricky, stepping up in the middle of the school year.

“I still have a bit of imposter syndrome where I still feel like a resident most of the time. There’s a balance of, ‘I’m the adult; I’m in charge of you,’ but also, they’re adults, they get to make their own decisions,” said Callison.

After being warmly welcomed by her fellow RAs, Callison feels strongly supported by her peers and hopes she can create a similar support system to make her residents feel safe during these unprecedented times.

“I feel really, really strongly about COVID-19 policies- even before I was an RA- and was dealing with a significant amount of frustration with students on campus just blatantly not following the policies on campus,” said Callison.

Since the RAs on campus are a large part of enforcing COVID-19 policies, Callison hopes to encourage SPU’s COVID-19 guidelines with positivity and understanding.

“It’s kind of like a double-edged sword because I hope that I won’t have to deal with that,” said Callison. “I hope that I can learn to be gentle even when I don’t feel like it all the time, and be a soft leader.”