By Giselle Pagunuran
Rather than asking what exactly it is that Resident Advisors (RAs) do, it might make more sense to ask what they don’t do. From planning events to settling arguments, RAs do it all!
Grace Langley, an RA in Connor Community, is very familiar with the wildly varied responsibilities of a Resident Advisor. “We do some of the oddest jobs I think you’ll ever think of,” Grace said. “Like getting knocks on the door at 3 am because the toilet’s flooding in the bathroom.”
Erica Chen, an RA in Olde Campus Lower Quad, thinks it would be a mistake to assume that RAs are just there to police their residents or ruin their fun. “At the end of the day, RAs are really just there to be a resource for people and to help keep people safe in their living spaces,” she said. “The main role of an RA is to promote community, inclusion, and safety in residence halls, but also to make sure that residents are able to enjoy their time on campus as much as possible.”
So what does that look like?
One way that RAs promote community is through community programs. You’ve probably seen the flyers posted around your hall. Roomie trivia night. Taco Tuesdays. Community cookouts. There’s got to be someone behind all those activities, and chances are your RA has been cooking up a bunch of those ideas in all their free time.
Grace said that she wants to use these programs to foster a sense of connection between her and her residents.
“Resident advisors have the most direct impact on people who live on campus because we see each other almost every single day and I feel like I am able to prevent a crisis before it happens,” she said. “Just by being a friendly face in the hallway or coming to talk to people to see how they’re doing and providing programs for everyone to get involved in and kind of creating that sense of community on campus.”
Support and Resources
Your RA isn’t just there to come up with fun programs. They’re also there to give you support and advice when you need it. Roommate drama? Academic advice? Just generally going through it? Whether your problem is big or small, your RA will be ready and willing to help you through it. And if the situation calls for it, they can direct you to whatever campus resources you might need.
How to Contact Your RA
So how can you get in touch with your RA? Well, good news, your RA is a resident in your hall just like you are, so one way to reach them is just by going over and simply knocking on their door. Depending on who your RA is, they may have given you a phone number or an email that you can use to contact them. If they’ve shared that with you, that’s another great way to get in touch with them. But it’s also important to remember that your RAs are people, too! That means they need time for themselves, so if you lock yourself out of your room at 2 in the morning, maybe try to find another way to solve your problem before calling your RA.
What if you run into a problem and your RA isn’t immediately available? If you live in a residential community, you should be able to call an RA on duty. Usually, they’re available from 7:30 pm to 9:00 am on weekdays, and from 7:30 pm to noon on Fridays and weekends. You can find their number posted somewhere in your hall, or you can ask the desk staff at your community office.
They’re there for you
Clearly, RAs take on a lot of responsibilities, but the most important part of their job description is to be there for you.
Erica said her favorite part of being an RA is getting to see how her residents grow together. “I live in a first-year community, so it’s interesting to see how they change throughout their first year at Carolina,” she said.
Grace believes that RAs can make a huge impact on students’ lives. “During my first year here at UNC, my RA had such a big impact on me,” she said. “They were a really good friend. Not just an RA, but a really good friend that I could come talk to about anything. I’m pretty sure I could come and talk to them today if I really wanted to.”
She wants to be that person for her residents. “That’s kind of my hope. That I can have that same impact on other students and make their Carolina experience the best it could possibly be.”