Tue. Sep 22nd, 2020

RAs face new COVID-19 challenges

Resident advisers are coping with new COVID-19 limitations on top of their already tasking duties (Photo Credit: Katie Fox)

Editor’s Note: This article contains quotes and information from three resident advisers who, when speaking with the Old Gold & Black, asked to remain anonymous. We have not included their names in this article, though their identities are known to us, as to not compromise their positions as employees. To avoid confusion, each RA will be referred to using a gender neutral alias. 

In previous semesters, resident advisers (RAs) on Wake Forest’s campus would facilitate events to help residents socialize with each other. These events included pizza parties, study sessions in lounges and group gatherings. This fall, however, new COVID-19 guidelines have hindered RAs’ ability to create events and build a sense of community. Also, in addition to fulfilling their usual responsibilities, RAs are now tasked with additional obligations such as enforcing COVID-19 guidelines. 

Although administrators create the COVID-19 policies, RAs are the ones tasked with ensuring students comply. Ryan, who is a RA in a freshman hall, explained how RAs are working to help students adhere to new campus rules this semester. 

“The university puts out these rules and regulations, and we are the boots on the ground enforcing them,” Ryan said. “If there are COVID-19 regulations, we’re the people enforcing those regulations.”

Ryan also explained how, despite increased University Police presence on campus this semester, it can be difficult to count on their assistance when faced with a situation that requires immediate attention.

“It is kind of difficult because sometimes it can take up to ten minutes for them to respond,” Ryan said. “I just don’t know if that’s the best way to deal with the situations.” 

Further, Jordan, who works as a RA for upperclassmen, has expressed a desire for University Police to be more consistent this semester.

“University Police have been involved even though their response, I would say, has been pretty inconsistent so far. Some days, they do a good job documenting everyone who is not complying, and then other days they let them off the hook,” Jordan said. 

In addition, RAs have had difficulty connecting and collaborating with each other this semester. Dylan, who has never been a RA before, said that it is hard to meet and learn from other RAs on campus. 

“The training was all virtual, which had its own set of differences because I feel like meeting your staff in-person is very important to making a tighter, close-knit connection,” Dylan said. “There are some people on my staff that I haven’t even had a conversation with in-person.”

Beyond connecting with other RAs, it has also been challenging for them to bond with their residents. Ryan said that it is hard to create the same bonds as were made prior to the pandemic. 

“It’s harder to have those organic conversations, especially because people are only allowed to have one other person in their room,” Ryan said. “We’re discouraged from going into residents’ rooms. If we feel comfortable, we can, but they don’t want us exposing ourselves to so many people, which is completely understandable.”

Similarly, Jordan has struggled to form a sense of community amongst the residents themselves. 

“It’s really hard to get all the suites that I oversee to interact with each other because right now, I don’t blame people for wanting to stick to themselves and the people they live with,” Jordan said. “No one really wants to be mingling with a bunch of people, especially if they are concerned about their own safety.” 

As the semester progresses, RAs will continue to adapt to the current circumstances and find creative ways to build community amongst their residents. Of course, this assumes the Reynolda campus remains open and continues to operate with the current restrictions in place, not stricter ones.

Although RAs will keep addressing noncompliant behavior when they see it, social distancing guidelines definitely add an extra layer of challenges when making sure students adhere to COVID-19 rules. Meaning that, ultimately, the university’s ability to remain open this semester will require collaborative efforts from all members of the community.