The Fordham First Person series focuses on sincerity and self-disclosure. Not necessarily newsy, but always relatable, this series presents the stories of our community, recounted in their own words.
There’s nothing easy about being an authority figure. Especially one on a college campus, where it seems all that students want to do is be rule-free and have a do-whatever-the-hell-they-feel-like attitude, no matter the consequences. That’s what makes being an RA so difficult: showing the residents that you do care while proving that you’re not the villain. There is a fine line between friend and authority figure, but that’s where the most successful RA’s stand, and that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to please my superiors and my residents, but when both are butting heads, standing in the middle is the worst place to be.
First things first, to dispel any rumors, there are no quota for documentations or write-ups that an RA has to meet. Therefore, if an RA does document a resident, it’s because he or she feels that the documentation was justified. It can be frustrating when a resident who breaks the rules yells at us for singling them out, or targeting them. This is never the case. It’s very easy to not get in trouble: just be respectful. If I feel residents are disrespecting me or another RA by taking advantage of one of us because the “cool” RA is on duty, then yea, they will be written up. In reality, documentations don’t benefit either of us. First, it creates additional unwanted work for me. Second, I don’t want my residents being angry with me, especially because I was doing my job. Any RA will agree with me when I say that the worst part about the job involves documenting residents.
All that extra work adds up and takes away time from me. As an RA, time isn’t something I’m able to throw around freely. I do have outside jobs, a social life to maintain, and schoolwork to try and keep up with. Many residents tend to forget that I’m a student just like they are. They get frustrated when they call me at 1:00pm on a Thursday afternoon because they’re locked out of their room, and I can’t be there to open it. If I’m on duty, I’m more than happy to help in any situation I can. However, my schedule doesn’t allow me to be of help 24/7.
The negatives of being an RA definitely exist, I won’t deny that. The pros, however, greatly outweigh the cons. Watching your residents succeed – in school, sports, relationships, jobs – is one of the best feelings. Even though I may not have aided at all in the process, seeing my residents succeed is a feeling too few college students get to experience. These residents wound up becoming my friends (fresidents, if you will), and became a big part of my life – two thirds of my college career. Becoming an RA has been a defining factor in my college experience; I only know college with it, and couldn’t imagine college without it.
That being said, I do think I have been the best RA I could be. I tried to find that thin line between friend and authority figure. And for some I did. But for others, I was nothing more than that: an authority figure. Ridding of that stigma is a difficult one; one that few people can shed while still gaining respect from their residents, or be viewed as nothing but a friend. The authority RA’s hold is given to us, but the respect we receive is gained on how we use it. I’ve learned that a lot of residents will respect you if you use it right; many realize that when they do get written up, it was their fault, and they will respect you even though they are not happy with the situation. I won’t abuse my authority, and so my residents won’t abuse our friendship and try to take advantage of when I’m on duty. That’s why I believe I established a good relationship with them: they understood my job, and tried to avoid situations that would require me to act on it. I was put into situations where I did have to document, but still had the respect and trust from residents that I tried so hard to earn.
In the end, despite the fact that I do have a number of documentations to my name, I care a lot more about the residents then they probably realize. Two years and counting, I have watched my residents grow. For some, I was a welcoming face. For others, I was a reference guide. I was a friend. I was a mentor. I was a shoulder to cry on. But I am a resident assistant, and though I may not be returning as one next year, I will always be. Because once an RA, always an RA.