Viewpoint: What Makes a Good Resident Assistant?


Sam Stroozas, Features Reporter

At the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, most students live in the residence halls at least one year and the experience they have will dictate not only their future living situation, but their opinion of residence life itself.  

That student’s resident assistant, a fellow student under the employment of UWL’s Office of Residence Life, has a great influence over that experience. The role of a resident assistant is a highly sought-after position by UWL students, with hundreds of applicants each year. The chances of being selected for the role are becoming increasingly slim.  

Many people may be great at interviews by selling themselves but behind closed doors they may not shine as the best choice for a resident assistant. Because of the social hierarchy that is residence life, there is an unsaid rule that once you are in, it is difficult to get kicked out. 

Residence life values the aspect of manipulation of many of their candidates instead of individuality. What makes a good resident assistant versus what makes a bad resident assistant purely comes down to how professional yet approachable you are at the job.  

Resident assistant of Coate Hall and UWL senior Claire Howard commented on the conduct side of things. Howard said, “Duty is a big part of being a resident assistant on campus, especially in a large hall such as Coate. I have had duty rounds where I have written up incident reports for the 10 p.m., 12 a.m., and 2.a.m round.” 

Howard has been a resident assistant for three years and has seen the impact her job has on the fresh new faces of Coate Hall, “You have to focus on community building. I love the connections I make with my residents. I have learned how to be a critical thinker and an effective communicator.” 

Coate Hall is notoriously known for being the residence hall with the biggest party atmosphere, but the question is not why they are known as this, but if there is anything being done to stop it?  

An anonymous student commented on Coate’s duty rounds, “Our resident assistant told us at the beginning of the school year exactly what times to be turn down our music and be silent so we don’t get caught on duty rounds.”  

If resident assistants are giving hints to their residents of when they will be enacting conduct rules and when they will be looser on enforcement of them, is residence life bettering the safety of their residents or simply enforcing a party atmosphere in which resident assistants are pawns that receive no respect or real authority? 

Newcomer Nolan Clary, a mid-year hire in Coate Hall discussed the atmosphere of residence life. “Resident life is an enjoyable, sociable world. You have to expect the unexpected and always be on the lookout.” 

Dylan Shock, a UWL National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) member commented on what he has seen from an outside perceptive of what makes a great resident assistant on campus. Shock noted, “I think it is someone who wants to be a community builder and social conduit to have enriching relationships but also understands that you must not be afraid to enforce the rules and regulations that exist within the residence halls.” 

Shock gives a personal voucher on someone who he believes is an excellent example of a resident assistant that balances the two sides of holding the position– protocol and inclusivity.  

“Kelli Walter is a mid-year hire in Reuter Hall and she is a prime example of someone who wants to befriend residents and be a role model but also understands where the line of conduct must be drawn and what her mature role is as an authority figure of the hall,” said Shock. “In conversations, she has expressed her love of residence life but also her understanding of her responsibility of accountability to issues such illegal substances in the residence halls, noise complaints, etc.” 

Being a resident assistant on campus is an enriching experience but UWL’s resident’s assistants are split half and half on what they believe a good resident assistant looks like – a fun older friend who is loose on the rules, or a passionate reliable authority figure of the hall. You cannot address living in the dorms as an anti-party atmosphere but you must address it is a zero-tolerance area to unsafe behavior or you are reinforcing the social lubricant that drinking, drugs, and poor actions create.