Life of an “RA” : Enforcing the Rules

Photo credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation (flickr)

Photo credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation (flickr)

So, here’s how life of an “RA” is in a nutshell: you were hired to be this supportive force, to befriend the awkward freshmen as they get their “college legs,” to make sure that everyone is involved. But let’s be real…this is college…students make their own life decisions. So, another layer to being an “RA” is to make sure they’re safe, to make sure that there are no illegal substances in the building and to overall enforce the  University Residential Life rules that the residents agreed to when they signed their housing contracts. That’s the hard part–how do you lay down the law so to speak, while still being their friend and mentor?

I bring this up because I was on-call last Thursday (also known as Halloween…also known as no-sleep-night). Everything was fine and dandy until about 2:30am. So, I guess it wasn’t Halloween that was the problem, it was November 1. Anyway, I can’t go into details because that would violate the FERPA contract I signed as well as several other Residential Life policies, but my residents decided to have fun in a different way than a boring student such as myself would. Mind you, these were residents that I’ve really bonded with, that are involved on the floor, that have been in the hall since day one– literally.

Photo credit: Paul Anderson (flickr)

Photo credit: Paul Anderson (flickr)

Again, how do you enforce the rules without cutting off all the connections you’ve made with these residents? This is my first year as a student staff member (and last since I’ll be graduating in May). I’ve asked returning staff members and they all say the same thing: you’re not here to make friends, you’re here to keep the residents safe. The problem is– I disagree with that (see first paragraph). The only reconciliation I can see is to explain the rules and explain my position in this greater force. Of course, after the situation happens, they’re still pretty upset because they feel betrayed–I understand that. I guess I have to give them space. I’ll continue to be there for my residents, to be their “Mizzou mom” that they can come to with problems and to help find great opportunities and experiences for my residents.


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