Reaction to RA deskie shifts points to oversaturation

Photo by Anna Delph.
Photo by Anna Delph.

When reading the recent article by Ben Rietema on how budget cuts are affecting resident assistants (RAs), I saw something other than the discontent with the new deskie policy being voiced.

As a returning RA myself, I signed back up knowing of the required deskie shifts and loss of stipend. I personally think this is a great way of dealing with the budget deficit and would rather see additional formal RA responsibilities than a cut in pay. Yet, that is not why I am writing.

What I think is being touched upon by many of my coworkers’ expressions of frustration is an underlying theme of an oversaturation of events at Calvin and how it is manifested in residence life and the role of an RA.

Since our campus was rocked by the recent financial crisis last year, all departments have buckled down to find the best ways to preserve what they have built. Residence life is no exception.

Facing the consequences of choices they did not make, residence life is being pressed to find ways to lower their operating budget while still providing the same excellence to students.

I am okay with this translating into me formally serving Calvin a few more hours a week, especially considering what all the people making up this institution have given me.

This frustration with oversaturation that is appearing reaches back before the budget deficit surfaced.

At Calvin, we are surrounded by an innumerable amount of events provided by academic departments and residence life. Our coursework is what most often takes a backseat as we scurry from a lecture series to dorm worship to midnight breakfast karaoke.

As an RA, this oversaturation is best summarized in the fact that I am required, or very heavily encouraged, to participate on a floor retreat, a dorm retreat and an RA staff retreat.

By the end of all these retreats, I have to go on a personal retreat — to retreat from all these retreats.

This constitutes three weekends of my academic year that are committed to something other than my academics. I dropped two classes last year and know of three on my staff who have dropped classes this year because of the RA job.

My question to Calvin is simply: are we doing too much?

As an RA, I signed up to have a great resident director mentor and serve alongside similarly minded peers in serving a small group of students at Calvin.

I signed up to love on my residents. Yet more often than not, other things like planning dorm events or going to another training meeting, however well intentioned, drain my ability to do just that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for any other on-campus position.

I am given free room and board for expressing love and care to 40 wonderful people. I would continue to drop classes and go to the most repetitive of meetings if that meant I could continue to be there for them.

But as an educational institution, especially one looking to cut its operating budget, it’s time we took a step back and asked if the quality of our programs is lost in the quantity at which we put them on.

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