RA Life: Ponies and Police
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 00:09
Take what you know about dormitory life. Now, imagine having to tell people on your floor that you can hear them having an in-depth conversation about masturbating from down the hall. Or waking up to find a pile of human feces in the hallway. Or chasing a pony in Southwest Quad after a petting zoo went awry.
These moments as a residence assistant make it, without a doubt, the worst job on campus.
There are, of course, a lot of thankless jobs out there for Georgetown students. Making $8.25 an hour logging packages in a Residence Hall Office? No, thank you. Waking up at 7:30 a.m. to swipe people into the library? I’ll pass. What makes being an RA the best — and worst — job on campus is the challenge of constantly learning how to deal with some incredibly uncomfortable situations.
One of the most awkward aspects of life as an RA is being responsible for peers and older students, especially if those students are your friends. No one wants to shut down a friend’s birthday party at midnight because of quiet hours. And, in all honesty, what senior is going to regard a lowly sophomore as a figure of authority? RAs are forced to toe a fine line between keeping their jobs and keeping their friends.
As an RA in Kennedy Hall last year, I learned that to survive such situations, you have to be consistent and upfront. If you’re going to be a negligent RA, be a negligent RA to everyone. If you’re going to stalk the halls, listening at each door for signs of unauthorized fun, you have to do it to all the students on your floor.
As horrible as disciplining your friends sounds (and trust me, it is), it’s not too different from many awkward situations faced in the real world. Once you’ve had to write up your friends for pregaming and sit next to them in class the next day, you’ll be able to approach tough situations with professionalism and neutrality.
Dealing with the Department of Public Safety was easily among the most unpleasant parts of my experience on the job. I learned that interacting with DPS is like participating in the highly ritualized animal courting processes you see on the National Geographic Channel: One wrong move, and your relationship is over. For example, don’t make the fatal mistake of referring to them as “Dops” instead of their preferred “DPS.” To put it bluntly, a DPS officer can be quite the diva.
I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the function of DPS. They once protected me from a bleeding and belligerently drunk resident who refused to go back to his room. DPS also deals with intense conflicts that are beyond the scope of an RA’s expertise, and for that I’m grateful. However, I have also personally seen many situations escalate unnecessarily at the hands of an overeager DPS officer — or 20.
One such situation stands out vividly. Late one night, a couple of DPS officers were questioning some residents from my floor about drunkenly roughhousing in the hallway. The situation escalated quickly, as things do, and soon, several more officers had appeared and were threatening arrest for assault and providing alcohol to minors. What had started as a routine write-up had suddenly turned into a tense interrogation.
As an RA and a peer, I was in a difficult position. On the one hand, RAs are technically university staff and are expected to work with DPS to keep the peace. On the other hand, as a student, I felt extremely uncomfortable with what was happening. Seeing that it was 3 a.m., the latter instinct kicked in, and I voiced my concern about the situation. Bad choice. DPS wrote up a report on me, stating that I was “impeding the investigation.”
This is just one example of the unpredictable experience of life as an RA. Confronting these challenges on a daily basis is draining, but you get to work through these obstacles with other RAs. When it’s all over, you come out having learned a lot about life — and chasing ponies.
HALEY COTTRELL is a junior in the College.