The Resident Assistant is a staple of collegiate residential life. They are simultaneously friend, advisor, and somewhat overbearing parent reminding you that it is quiet hours and even though you may not have class tomorrow, someone does. An RA is supposed to make their residents feel at home, which is particularly important for incoming freshman who may never have been away from home. Above the RA’s are the Resident Directors who oversee the RA’s and make sure the building runs smoothly. They all work other jobs on campus meaning that they can be a great resource for finding jobs or learning how to join an athletic team or club. Above the RD’s is the Director of Residential Life, and above them is the Dean of Students. Why am I telling you about the seemingly boring chain of command of Juniata College’s Residential Life Office?
Because next year it is getting a new player: The Senior RA. The college is beginning to shy away from the RD framework of leadership, instead opting for Area Coordinators (RD’s with a fancy new name) who are placed in the building that most need an RD and who oversee the running of several buildings, and SRA’s who will be experienced RA’s that oversee their individual dorms. While the SRA’s will technically answer to the Area Coordinators, their role is not just limited to looking over their building and reporting to their boss. The SRA’s will have a greater voice in the ResLife office, and will serve as much more efficient liaisons between the students and the administration.
For the past year I have worked as an RA in Sherwood Hall on the first floor, and along with the reapplication process RA’s who had worked for at least two semesters were allowed to apply for the Senior RA position and I would like to share my last paragraph of my application essay:
“I am excited for the new SRA position and the impact it will have on Residential life and the Residence Halls, especially the first year Halls. There are many changes coming to Juniata in the next few years and the best place to address those changes with the students is in the Residence Halls. We as a staff are liaisons between administrators and students and in the coming years I believe there is a lot we can do to make the students feel like their voices are being heard. Having a student in a position where they come into close contact with both students and administrators alike on a much more personal level than say, a student government officer, will be a huge step in getting the students’ voices heard, and will make Juniata feel that much more like home.”
In the past, I believe the RD has been some nameless faceless entity that lives in some hard to find corner of the Residence hall and it is near impossible to form any kind of relationship there. Now, we have students leading students. Your SRA next year might be in your Survey of Western Art class, or the TA for your Integrated Chemical Principles Lab or a co-member of the Dance Ensemble. You will study with them, or they’ll help you with an acid-base titration or help you perfect that last dance move of your set. But more important than that (okay less important than your grades…) is the bond you will have with them. You may not become best of friends but you will most likely be more comfortable voicing your concerns to them than at a forum put on by the administration. And because of the SRA’s new found proximity to the administration the divide between administration and the student bodies’ voice will be that much smaller.