The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

86° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Resident Assistants now classified as student employees


(Left to right) Nadia Ahmed, Chris Oka, Taylor Dunkle and David Beck, are all desk assistants (DAs) in Arbol De La Vida, an honors dorm on campus. Dunkle, a senior majoring in civil engineering, says her favorite thing about being a DA is getting to interact with the residents on a daily basis.

The Resident Assistant position has been designated an hour value, which has cut down the number of hours an RA can work another on-campus job.

Nick Sweeton, interim executive director of Residence Life, said something changed in the way either a mandate or law was interpreted, which led to the need to assign an hour value to the RA role, a position that previously did not have one.

The role of an RA is now considered equivalent to 10 hours. This equivalency cuts the maximum of 25 hours total that a student can work full-time at on-campus jobs, down to 15 hours for an RA.

This decision was only revealed to the RAs when they returned for training, not when they signed their contracts last spring. This raised some issues among the RAs, according to Sweeton, since there was little time to prepare for this change. As a result, Residence Life worked with the UA’s Human Resources department to create a grace period, and moved the start date of this change to January 1, 2017.

“The crux of this issue is that the RA role actually doesn’t fit under any classification as defined by the Internal Revenue Service Department of Labor and government agencies,” Sweeton said. “So what ends up happening is that every few years, we go through this cycle where there’s either a new regulation issue or there’s a reinterpretation of an existing regulation or law that applies to the RA role or seems to apply to the RA role in the opinion of a human resource professional.”

Sweeton cites the difficulty in assigning a fair hour value to the RA role as part of the problem. He said that the College Housing Lobbying Group has been pushing the federal government and the department of labor to more clearly define the RA role.

The UA’s Student Employment Manual classifies RAs as students who reside in UA residences and work with other residence personnel “to promote a socially, culturally and educationally enriching experience for students living in residence halls.” The manual also refers to it as an “unpaid job” that is compensated with financial aid that can be applied to room and board expenses.

Even though the role is technically considered a position and not a job, the new hour assignment puts RAs under the “student employee” category as stated in the manual.

While many students are quite upset about this change, some see the benefit.

“I think it makes sense since being an RA actually takes up a lot of time if you are doing your job properly, therefore limiting the hours RAs can work allows them to be students without being overwhelmed,” said Wyatt Gross, a nutritional sciences senior and former RA who also worked as a resident hall desk assistant. “I have issue with the fact that RAs weren’t told about this last year, when they accepted jobs. That being said, I don’t think it really will affect that many people since for some, jobs getting more than 15 hours a week can be slightly difficult.”

Sweeton echoed this opinion.

“While I understand the lack of ability to plan, when this was implemented [it] suddenly did create problems, but I do want to mention that the spirit behind this is actually positive,” he said. “It’s making sure that all students, including RAs, can appropriately balance their role as a student and the other things that they’re doing such as being in a leadership role as an RA or having a campus job.”

Residence Life, the UA Human Resources department , and various lobbying groups are continuing efforts to more clearly define the RA role in the hopes of avoiding more confusion in the future.

Follow Leah Merrall on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search