As colleges allow more students to live on campuses again, staffers who keep dorms running say their jobs carry more responsibilities — and new risks.
In addition to hosting virtual floor events and mediating conflicts, resident assistants, community directors and other residential staff members say they’re counseling students thinking about suicide or struggling with homesickness. In many cases, they’re also enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing and escorting their sick peers to isolation housing.
While schools have made some modifications — assigning students to single bedrooms, requiring negative coronavirus tests before move-in and issuing masks and other protective gear to staff members — some campus housing staff members are pushing to make sure they’re vaccinated alongside other essential workers.
“When we think of front-line workers, we think of housekeepers, maintenance workers, dining staff,” said Valronica Scales, director of resident life at the University of Maryland at College Park. “Oftentimes, those that are forgotten are RAs. A lot of them have said, ‘We’re concerned about our own safety.’ ”
Stephanie Jamanca, a senior residence life coordinator at the University of South Florida, said she spends the week enforcing policies in her dorm and finding ways to educate students about the risks of the coronavirus.