Megan Ammermann–Guest Writer
The first smile and welcoming face you see upon entering college your freshman year is your RA’s. They’re the first person you go to when you’re lost or when you need to double check what time an event starts. Your RA is the person you go to when you have a concern or when your roommate is driving you crazy. They’re your first friend, and the first person that leaves an impact within your college experience. It all comes down to what kind of authority figure they want to be and how they will use their position to be it.
The general function of a Resident Assistant (RA) in any institution is to develop a sense of community among residents through social, academic, and personal adjustments. RAs enforce rules and policies that are required of them. They also serve as positive role models and ambassadors for the institution while serving the residents in their care. At Dordt College, resident assistants main focus is to create community out of the spiritual overflow given to them through Christ.
The main responsibilities of an RA at Dordt College are to make sure the residents are following the policies. RAs follow duty tasks by staying in the building from 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. while making hourly rounds. They also send weekly emails to inform their residents about weekly campus or hall events. RAs are required to document inappropriate behaviors on campus, one of the most popular being riding longboards through the halls. RAs must attend weekly meetings with the staff and fellow assistants. Lastly, the most important requirement is to be a friend, leader, or mentor to Dordt residents.
“The best way for me to get to know the girls in my hall is by planning numerous wing events,” said Jamie Johnson, a sophomore RA at Dordt. “Making myself approachable by being willing to say hi and intentionally ask how they’re doing builds trust and a friendship.” There’s no doubt that “pjs and pancakes” and “midnight muffins” will get the girls excited to participate in an event. Wing events simply serve as an opportunity for residents to meet new friends and build relationships.
Roles of RAs in public institutions differ castly from those at Dordt.
“My RA does the bare minimum to intentionally talk with the residents in my hall.” NDSU sophomore Mckaia Ryberg said. “He communicates with us for mandatory situations such as floor meetings, roommate success meetings, and check in/check out for breaks. I would definitely say it’s more of a structured relationship that exists primarily because he is my RA.”
“My RA is bisexual and I live on the lgbtq floor.” SDSU sophomore Charlotte Ammermann said. “Let’s just say it’s kind of weird for me growing up living in a Christian home, living in a small town, and going to church on Sundays. RAs do a great job at interacting with the residents, but they lack in enforcing the rules. Our RAs don’t care if residents have alcohol in the rooms.”
“I think our role is more personal [at Dordt],” Dordt sophomore Juliana Martinez said. “We aren’t here to just plan events. We are here to get to know people emotionally and spiritually. We make sure every student on campus is accounted for.”
It’s hard creating a balance between being a friend and being in an authority position. But RAs walk this line every day.
“It’s difficult being in an authority role,” Marinez said. “People might see me as that [an authority figure]instead of seeing me as Juliana.”
“Students aren’t looking for people who keep them in check,” senior Ray Badudu said. “They don’t want another parent figure, what they look for in an RA is a friend who has more direction than they do.”
“Some RAs are really down to earth and simply want to be friends while making an impact,” freshman Hannah Vanderhooft said. “I’ve also met RAs who distance themselves from students because they want to have the ‘leader to follower’ separation.”
It’s safe to say that Dordt RAs take an active role in making Dordt’s campus community a safe by enforcing rules and creating friendships that go beyond being an authority figure.