RA’s Face the Pros and Con(frontation)s

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Confrontation is an art form. Like any artistic ability, some people just have an innate knack for it. Others work at it until they seem like naturals all, and some try it out only to decide it’s just not their thing.

A year ago, I definitely would’ve fallen into the latter category. This year, however, I’m a Resident Assistant (RA), and conflict is an inherent part of my job. Confrontation was definitely one of my biggest fears coming into this job, but so far I’ve gained an appreciation for it and new confidence in my approach. Of course, RAs go through training on conflict resolution, but the most valuable training happens on the job. Being an RA has forced me to live—on the daily—outside of my comfort zone. Not only have I had to act as the confronter, but also as a facilitator for residents confronting others to resolve issues internally.

Even though being an RA has given me more confidence in dealing with conflict, that’s in no way saying I look forward to it in the slightest. The only secret I can let you in on about RAs is that we hate confrontation as much as anyone else; we just have to hide it.

 

The Beginning of Sophomore Year

“Wow Haley! Haven’t seen you all summer. How’s it going?”

I had taken the long way home back to my dorm, holding a large stack of community posters to decorate my halls, when I ran into an old friend from my first year in the dorms. We held a quick/friendly conversation in the middle of the street.

“I’m doing just fine what about you?”

He and his girlfriend had just gotten back from a concert, all bubbly and tired from the show.

“So what’s new with you? Where are you living this year?” he asked.

“Oh, I became an RA. I live in Stephen Epler now.”

That’s when the conversation changed. The street suddenly became silent. I felt a tiny shiver from his spontaneous speechlessness. With TV-series-like drama, he uttered the words, “Oh, an RA? …We’re enemies now.” And simply walked off into the night. No goodbyes were given. His girlfriend gave me a heinous stare before whipping her head around to join him.

It never hit me till walking home that Wednesday night. This is now my life. My name is Haley Heynderickx, and I decided to become a Resident Assistant (RA). I live on campus and try to build community in our residence halls. I introduce students to other students, listen to their problems, and try to make a difference in their lives. I am a good person. I go to school full time, record and play music around Portland, make time for my friends and, to top this off, work.

How am I supposed to feel like a normal student, though, when I have this “RA Sticker” permanently stapled to my forehead? Every day I make an effort to prove to the world that RA’s have feelings and emotions like normal human beings. Our jobs are not to “go and get you in trouble” when the opportunity arises. Our jobs are to keep the peace! We do not seek for drama. We just fix it when it arises.

Please on-campus readers, if you have any space in that Portland-loving heart of yours, take this desperate plea to respect us RA’s. We put time into those posters, don’t rip them down. We make time to get to know you, not annoy you. RA’s are friends, not fiends.

A Night in the Life of a Resident Assistant

It’s 10 p.m. on a school night. Most of you will probably be home, studying, or finishing a night with friends, but for a few students on campus, their night is just beginning. These students are on-call Resident Assistants (R.As).

Do, beep, do, beep, do, do, do….The phone is ringing and I’ve just begun my night on-call. I pick up and the voice on the other end says, “Hey, I’m locked out of my room.”  I walk a few blocks in the rain to get to their building, the entire time my mind is on the fact that I still have to finish the last few pages of my essay due at 9 a.m.  I let them in and then continue on my rounds, checking to make sure that all the doors are locked, nothing’s amiss. Ew! What did I just touch? One of the handles is covered in a semi-opaque, slimy, sticky substance. Suppressing my gag reflex, I head to the nearest office to find a sink and some hand sanitizer. I go back to clean up the mess and hope to never find out what I just touched. Something tells me I don’t want to know the answer.

The night goes pretty smoothly as I finish both sets of rounds. There’s the call I seem to get every week complaining about the upstairs neighbors, so I write another information report.  All I hope for is no call from Campus Public Safety, as last time they called about a party with underage high schoolers, and the week before it ended up with somebody in the hospital. Those calls are always the worst. Finally, I fall asleep around 1 a.m., but it is of course too good to be true; the phone rings again at 4 a.m., waking me from a dead sleep. The alarm is set for 6:30 and I still have to finish that paper.