GUSA calls on University to clarify RA role, better support RAs

Yesterday, the GUSA Senate passed a resolution calling on the University to clarify the resident assistant role and do more to support RAs, including creating a safer work environment for them.

The resolution follows last week’s Voice online exclusive, which revealed stories from RAs who felt unsupported and isolated by the Office of Residential Living in the wake of work-related trauma. Two RAs, for example, said that ResLife would not rehire them unless they attended regular therapy after one was sexually assaulted by a resident and the other was diagnosed with anxiety disorder.

The resolution “encourages the University and/or the Office of Residential Living to cooperate with residential assistants to establish a safer work environment wherein residential assistants fully comprehend their rights as employees.”

Additionally, GUSA requests that the proper RA protocol in dealing with work-related trauma be clarified and released to the general public.

During the deliberation, senators discussed the apparent discrepancy between what the RAs claim and what the University officially says. Several of the RAs interviewed by the Voice expressed worries that their work-related trauma would make them a potential liability to the University and therefore be less likely to be rehired. When Vox asked Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson if that was the case, he denied that assertion.

Senators called for the University to clarify this discrepancy.

Senator Sam Kleinman (COL ’16) proposed an amendment that the University not punish any RAs who speak to the press. When Senator Daniel Lysak (COL ’18) raised concerns that the RAs technically were breaking the terms of their contract by speaking with the Voice, Kleinman argued that they deserve protection regardless.

“Just as when there’s an oil company that’s egregiously violating regulations and is gonna kill a bunch of people and building some terrible pipeline, that person [who comes forward with information] gets whistleblower status, like, come on,” Kleinman said. “These people have come forward to out the University in some pretty egregious policies. It seems ridiculous to me not to give them whistleblower status, not to protect them for doing the right thing.”

Vox hopes ResLife incorporates Kleinman’s ideas. Maybe they could go by “ResLife: The dorms of Georgetown, the morals of an oil company.”

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