Push for RA demands continues into spring semester

Mercedes Ohlen, Contributing Writer

Last November, Tulane’s Resident Advisors released a list of demands and an accompanying change.org petition and Twitter account in light of conflicts between RAs and Housing and Residence Life that have extended into the new semester. 

According to the demands, the RAs “are tired of being mistreated, undervalued, and overworked.” 

The list is made up of 12 demands within seven categories, including respect, COVID-19 policies, and improved RA training. 

RAs have always been devalued,” said Zaidmara Diaz, an RA who works in Monroe Residence Hall.

RAs from the Monroe and Sharp Residence Halls led the charge in organizing these demands after HRL sent out an email barring them from going to The Commons due to a spike in positive COVID-19 cases among the residents. The school provided the RAs with $150 additional Wavebuck$ as well as $100 for residents of Monroe and Sharp. It was later revealed that every RA on campus got the additional $150 and that Sharp and Monroe RAs would not be getting the additional $100 that the residents were promised. Many RAs need The Commons in order to get their daily meals, as not every student can afford to buy food elsewhere, so the RAs in Monroe and Sharp felt undervalued due to the fact that they had been given the same compensation, but without the ability to go to The Commons like RAs in other dormitories were.

Brian Johnson, assistant vice president of HRL and Campus Recreation had sent out a response to the complaints, telling the RAs that he did not agree that they should be getting more Wavebuck$ than what they had already received. After a lack of communication from HRL became apparent to the RAs, they decided to act. 

“We realized it would be beneficial and that this was the time to do it,” said Diaz. 

At the time of the demands being released, HRL allegedly had few to no people on the waitlist to become RAs, so there would be no one to take the spots of RAs who could possibly be let go due to speaking out. 

Natalie Miller, a former RA expressed her disappointment on how the COVID-19 policies on campus were handled by both HRL and freshman residents. 

“I loved being an RA my first year, and I generally had a really positive relationship with my residents,” said Miller. “What made my experience difficult to the point of quitting, I think, was the expectation that RAs — other college students — be the one to enforce the COVID policies. RAs are expected to help with transitions, homesickness, navigating campus, etc., and to compound these duties with the new policy enforcement was, and is, unrealistic.”

That being said, Miller specifies that this is not a Tulane-specific problem. 

“It’s worth noting that Tulane isn’t unique in this — it’s the expectation on many college campuses, and the situation felt nearly impossible to solve.”

Cornell’s RAs released a similar list of demands due to various complaints including unsafe working conditions.

Tulane’s RAs have also stated that the RAs were not given proper COVID-19 training, as the list of demands states that this year’s training “was not nearly as comprehensive or informative as training in past years.”

“I can say for certain the training this semester is probably the worst they could’ve ever done and did not prepare new RAs at all.” Diaz said. 

Current RAs like Diaz feel that the lack of training paired with undervalued RAs have resulted in the RAs taking on more responsibility than they have been prepared for. 

“Freshmen are going through a lot of change, and on top of that they are in the midst of a global pandemic during their first year, so the RAs are getting the emotional brunt of that,” Diaz said.

The change.org petition supporting the demands that has been started currently has over 680 signatures. Serin Park, a current RA, said she considered the initial response from HRL positive, overall.

“When the student staff expressed concerns regarding COVID, HRL [was] supportive of us by telling us that our safety comes first, and trained us with multiple protocols,” said Park. “I truly felt like HRL cared about the safety and well-being of the RAs during this pandemic…I am overall very impressed by the changes that have been made by Tulane Housing and Residence Life.”

Along with updated training, HRL has also expanded options for RA meal plans. 

Other demands expressed by the RAs include flexibility regarding the 2021 semester return date and flexibility within the RA Curriculum Requirements that had previously put RAs at risk due to the current global pandemic. RA Jada Roth, a copy editor for The Hullabaloo, confirmed that while some flexibility was offered for the move-in date, most demands have not yet been met. 

HRL might think that this is over, but we want this to be a continuing dialogue,” Diaz said.

This article was updated Jan. 31 at 3:43 p.m. to reflect that Jada Roth is a member of The Hullabaloo Board.