The Student Experience
The responsibilities of a resident assistant (RA) include keeping students safe and helping them adapt to the college lifestyle.
But COVID-19 has changed the RA landscape. Resident assistants must now disinfect—once or twice daily—all high-touch areas in their buildings, such as bathrooms, vending machines, and lobby furniture. Social distancing and capacity limits have also reduced the number of students who hang out in the dorms’ shared spaces or attend community programs held by RAs.
“Students missed their senior year, and their freshman year has been different,” said sophomore Brendan Rudy ’23, an RA in University Inn. “They are very thankful to be here, but it’s harder to make a connection with them with so many things online. They tend to stay in their rooms and Zoom.”
Junior Joseph Cooper ’22, resident assistant at Gore Residence Hall, said one of his new roles is reminding students to always wear their masks and to spread out while they are in the lobby and hallways. He also has to enforce the university’s new rules on guests — no more than two guests per room and no outside guests, or people who are not SU students.
“It’s definitely been a lot more difficult, but at the same time I enjoy it,” Cooper said.
All of the university’s resident assistants have undergone COVID-19-specific training before and during the semester, which has prepared them to deal with everything from safety and sanitation to COVID-19 policy violations. Residence Life also hosted a roundtable with RAs to work through a potential incident where a student was exposed to the virus.
Assistant Director of Residential Services Ericka Rohrbaugh said she is proud of the RA staff for adapting to all the new challenges this year.
This fall has introduced new obstacles for RAs as they work to build community and maintain necessary health and safety standards. They have worked hard to adapt to the university’s new requirements and ensure the well-being of Shenandoah’s residential population. Every RA staffer on campus is thinking outside of the box to engage our students and make SU feel like home during this pandemic. While the RA position may look a little different than years past, our staff is resilient, creative and dedicated to supporting our students.”
Ericka Rohrbaugh | Assistant Director of Residential Services
Despite all the coronavirus-related changes, resident assistants say students are a lot more appreciative of what they do.
“We sanitize the whole building, but students are willing to help because we’re taking care of their safety first,” said junior Sabryn Franklin ’22, the head RA in Gore and Funkhouser residence halls.
Rudy said that in University Inn, where all students are in a medical single, residents have been extremely responsible, especially about mask-wearing, and reminding others to do the same.
“This has taught everyone to be flexible; to be thankful for what we have now because it can be taken away at any second,” he said.
For Cooper, although interaction with residents has decreased, the interaction he does have with students is on a more personal level.
And Franklin said this semester has taught her to be more adaptable to change.
“I tell my staff that there’s something positive at the end of this,” she said. “I encourage residents to not get down. That we will get through this together.”