RAs will no longer be required to respond to crisis situations

The Office of Residential Life & Housing Services outlined changes to RA responsibilities as well as new policies for the upcoming academic year.

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Sirui Wu

The NYU Office of Residential Life & Housing Services has recently changed policy regarding the role of RA’s in order shift RA responsibility away from dealing with student crises towards fostering a real community for students in university housing. (Photo by Sirui Wu)

By Saurabh Kumar, Staff Writer

Residential assistant positions for the upcoming 2021-22 academic year were announced on May 4. The RA role at NYU’s 22 residence halls will be modified in an effort to enhance community development and foster a sense of belonging starting in the Fall 2021 semester, as NYU Local previously reported

RAs will no longer be asked to respond to crisis situations involving students on their floors. Instead, there will be an Incident Response team of full-time trained professionals who will address these situations. NYU spokesperson Shonna Keogan emphasized the importance of the university’s new system for responding to serious incidents involving students and the role it will play in making NYU’s residence halls safer for students and staff.

“NYU’s decision to make alterations to the role of RAs grew out of concerns raised by RAs themselves, as well as our ongoing efforts to enhance the student experience,” Keogan wrote to WSN in an email.

In the past, RAs were asked to deal with sensitive situations, such as those involving mental health, without receiving appropriate training or guidance. One RA, who asked to remain anonymous citing job repercussions, described how they felt unprepared to deal with crisis incidents.

“I feel I wasn’t being trained enough when it comes to handling building crisis & emergency situations,” the RA told WSN. “I have the ‘always-on’ mentality. Even when I am not on duty, if my residents reach out and something happens in front of me, I need to step in.”

Beginning in August, Keogan said, RAs will be asked to contact the Incident Response team in these situations, who will be available on-site to respond.

In response to the announcement, the RA said they were relieved professionals will be available to fall back on during future emergencies. 

“The implementation of a more professional response is a responsible act for both residents and RAs,” the RA said.

A second RA — who also asked to remain anonymous, citing job repercussions — said this past year has made the RA role particularly difficult, since COVID-19 restrictions reduced engagement between students and staff in residence halls. For months, RAs have felt disconnected from the residents they supervise.

“[The role] definitely makes me more anxious … because of how it disrupts my sleep schedule,” the RA wrote to WSN in an email. “I sometimes have had really rough weeks where I don’t feel rested enough … Duty is a 16 hour to 24 hour responsibility and it’s very stressful being on call and that can sometimes make it hard to be productive when you’re exhausted. I’m lucky enough to be taking a reduced course load so it’s not as much of an issue this year.”

The email announcing the modifications to the RA role listed another change as well — a greater focus will be placed on community-building activities intended to foster a sense of belonging in the residence halls. RAs will also carry on previous responsibilities, such as planning community events, working up to three hours a week at the hall resource center, resolving conflicts between residents, documenting potential policy violations and assisting in various other non-crisis situations.

Email Saurabh Kumar at [email protected]