Letter to the Editor: HRL sacrifices staff, student safety in favor of policing

Letter+to+the+Editor%3A+HRL+sacrifices+staff%2C+student+safety+in+favor+of+policing

Benjamin Sichel

Benjamin Sichel is a former Resident Advisor for Tulane University Housing and Residence Life.

Last semester, RAs banded together to put forth a list of demands for Housing and Residence Life including respect for the work we do, increased compensation for increased responsibilities, and more security in terms of our jobs and our homes. While some nominal improvements have been made, recent events have made it clear that HRL does not value the safety and wellbeing of its RAs.

One night, a few RAs were hanging out in my dorm, and one had begun drinking before coming. Fast forwarding to midnight, they began to feel sick and were taken to the bathroom by friends. After a few minutes, it was clear to me that they needed medical attention. 

I knew calling EMS would guarantee that HRL would receive a report the next day, risking my position and the position of everyone there; however, the choice to prioritize someone’s life over potential sanctions should be easy to make for anyone with a soul. I called 911 and told the others to leave, while my co-RA kept our friend’s airway open. EMS arrived and took them to the hospital.

Three days later we were fired for violating COVID-19 policies for hosting over four people in our rooms. A week before classes began, HRL had taken my job, my home, and my access to food. While RAs are employed by the school, being an RA is much more than just a job. It is a commitment to our residents and coworkers 24/7. It means we have a place to live and food to eat – many RAs rely on their role so they can afford to attend Tulane. If HRL cared about its RAs, they wouldn’t hold those necessities over our heads. Being homeless and food insecure should not be a punishment for an error in judgement – let alone, one in which those punished are responsible for ensuring someone’s safety.

Had I not called EMS, our friend might have been able to sleep it off, and Housing would be none the wiser. However, that was not a risk we wanted to take. Because we did the right thing, rather than the selfish or irresponsible one, we were punished and made homeless. This precedent set by Housing makes it clear that they care more about policing their students and staff than they do our literal survival.

My concern is about the precedent that HRL has set. My former residents as well as other RAs have expressed that they no longer feel comfortable calling 911 or TUPD in the case of a real emergency, because it may lead to them being severely implicated despite trying to help. While I do not regret my decision to ensure my friend’s safety, I implore HRL to reconsider their priorities. In the future, if someone dies because their friend has them “sleep it off” instead of getting medical attention, Housing has itself to blame.