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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Resident assistants looking for love

You’d be hard pressed to find an institution that wants its employees dating within the workplace. They’d prefer that interpersonal relationships be facilitated outside the place of employment.

Resident assistants face a unique problem in trying to adhere to these generally accepted practices in that their workplace is also their home and their responsibilities include spending a lot of time fostering community within their residence halls.

For those unfamiliar with Residence Life’s sophisticated terminology, a relationship between an RA and a resident is termed a “”Red Light.”” Those engaging in this type of relationship can be moved to another hall or possibly face disciplinary action, including termination, if they do not make Residence Life aware of it.

Alternatively, if the RA  discloses the relationship to their  community director, the resident is reassigned to a different hall. This undoubtedly lessens the amount of contact between partners, not to mention putting the resident through the difficulty of having to move, possibly to a less comfortable or geographically convenient residence hall.

Of course, college-age students are renowned for their capacity to repeatedly demonstrate the inability to make wise decisions about who they enter into relationships with, but the selection criteria for RAs, as stated on the Residence Life Web site, requires that they demonstrate a “”high level of maturity and responsibility.”” They are chosen for the position because they aren’t the average college student fixated on getting blazed and laid as often as possible and yet, are deemed by their employer to be unable to make intelligent choices about who they date.

I’m not suggesting that RAs be allowed to engage in frivolous activity with whomever they please. As with any potentially questionable endeavor, there needs to be guidelines in place to ensure a RA will adhere to the other terms of their employment. This could include things such as prohibiting public displays of affection during community activities and ensuring that the RA in the relationship is never involved in discussions regarding the resident they are dating.

There are such guidelines included in the Student Related Policies and Procedures Manual at my home university in Australia, stipulating how staff/student relationships should be managed in our adult, learning environment. The term “”staff”” is not limited to student employees or those outside the academic faculties.

My home university indeed allows relationships between professors and students, based on the fact that just about everyone attending universities is above the age of consent and is thus given enough credit to determine who they should and should not date. It’s true, running into someone you have broken up with is rarely comfortable, but as adults, this is the risk we knowingly take when we decide to have a relationship.

If nothing else, being coddled by our superiors will mean that we never learn how to handle these awkward situations ourselves.

College students are adults, and should be treated as such. Punishment should be based on individual circumstances and wrongdoing that hurts another person or their living community, not some pre-emptive and arbitrary rules that greatly limit an RA’s ability to find a suitable dating partner. As it stands, even those among us who have been selected for positions on the premise that they are responsible human beings are subject to these unnecessary regulations. 

It is not the place of the university, or any of its departments, to decide whom its students and staff can and cannot date. Their only role should be to provide guidelines to ensure that such endeavors are not undertaken to the harm of the people involved, their learning or the wider school community.

Manzanita-Mohave Community Director Jessica Crombie explains that Residence Life aims to make the dorms as conducive an environment to a student’s learning as possible and that while RAs are technically allowed to date the residents of their hall, the resident in question is moved to another dorm under such circumstances. However, as someone who currently has numerous bags and boxes of my belongings strewn around my new house, I can attest to the difficulty involved in such displacement. I sure wouldn’t feel that such a move was beneficial to my learning if it had not been one undertaken of my own accord. Someone shouldn’t have to go through all the hassle of moving out, having to adjust to a new environment and make new friends mid-semester just because they are dating an RA. At least if they do choose to date an RA, their parents can rest easier with the knowledge that they are less likely to be dating a jackass.

If an Australian university can implement policies to manage the faculty and staff dating their students, then surely Residence Life could think up some policies to deal with their own employees dating residents, without inconveniencing all involved.

I can’t deny it’s a precarious issue and certainly one that community directors may have to meddle in and help to manage at times, but the alleged power imbalance that exists between residents and their RAs isn’t one that should prevent them from being together. They are bound to make mistakes, but Residence Life should not stand in the way of love.

Dunja Nedic is an Australian exchange student.

She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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