App for RAs with Links

Hi, all! For this blog post, I will be showing you an app that I designed to help RAs while on the job. This may end up being a shorter blog than the others, but I hope you stick around and see what I’ve created.

This is the cover of the app. Design and photo by Cameron Campbell.

What this app is meant to do is help RAs while on the go, specifically when an RA is on-call. When on-call, there is a lot of back and forth which makes us super tired. All of the back and forth keeps us up during the night (plus it’s creepy going to the front desk at night after it closes). Within this app are phone numbers for help, video links to show us how to do things, and links to incident reports.

A fake list of contacts in the app. Design and photo by Cameron Campbell.

The reason why I think this kind of app is good or desirable is because of how much easier this makes life for RAs. This app would allow for RAs to no longer need access to a computer, whether their own or the one at the desk, while in the moment of needing to document a situation.

A list of RA resources in the app. Design and photo by Cameron Campbell.

The above screenshot, for example, holds different resources for RAs. The tab labeled “Maxient” is the main thing we use to document incidents that require us needing to talk to residents, the RD on-call, or even UPD. It’s where we list the things that happen and who was involved. The next tab labeled “Reporting Title IX” is a link to the Title IX reporting form. The “Breaker Boxes” tab takes an RA to a video link that shows them how to properly handle a breaker box. The last tab, “Ethics of RA Job”, takes the user to a document explaining the ethical aspects of the RA job (basically the do’s and don’t s).

Anyways, I hope you think this app idea is cool and fun. I’d love for this to be a real thing that my department of housing would create. I think a lot of the RAs in the department would be behind this.

Funny/Awkward Moments

A picture of myself (center) and the two other RAs from the Pie an RA event. Photo by Dr. Kristen Farris.

Funny things happen ALL the time in a dorm. Sometimes things happen between the RAs, sometimes they happen to just the residents and we find out, and sometimes funny things happen with RAs and residents. I know that no matter what, I’ll always remember these moments.

The first thing I can remember is the Pie an RA event I got to be a part of my second year. The Hall Council committee (a group of residents in each hall who throw events) decided to do an event where residents got to throw a pie in an RAs face of their choosing. There were only three of us doing this event, but myself and the other guy got the most pies (I got about 5, and he got 6 or 7. The girl with us only got about 3). It was a lot of fun because it was a silly event to get residents happy about the semester. Plus, I got to throw a pie in my coworker’s faces.

The next thing was definitely more awkward than funny. I had a resident from my floor (an all male floor) get locked out of his room in only his towel and boxers. He left his key in his room by accident when he went to go take a shower and then his roommate left and locked the door. The poor guy had to go downstairs to the front desk to get a spare key to his room. Unfortunately, the key didn’t work for some reason, so the DA (desk assistant) working sent a message for an RA to come help. My resident was back there at the desk; I could tell he was getting mad at himself and embarrassed, so I told him to go back upstairs by his room. I told him I’d come up with the master key and binder for him to sign saying he needed a key back to his room.

The last thing I’ll tell you about is a pure mix of funny and awkward. I was on-call one night doing my rounds in our sister hall. Once I was on the bottom floor, I only had to check the kitchen, laundry room, and the emergency exit. When I walked into the kitchen my shoes made a noise that let me know I was stepping on something super sticky. This trail went from the kitchen door to the island in the back, which was a space of about 12 feet. Not knowing what it was or what to do, I called the RD on-call to question them. We tried to figure out what was going on and how to best handle it. I was asked to go find cleaning supplies from the custodian’s closet, but I couldn’t find anything of use. When I walked back into the kitchen, there was a group of girls I knew who lived in the hall, so I asked if they knew what it was. They all looked at each other, which was an immediate indicator to me that they knew. A friend of the girl who spilled the wax started to tell me, but the girl who spilled it interrupted her. They went back and forth for a second before another girl from the group yelled at me that the girl was going to wax herself (I’m a little shy to say anything else, so use your imagination of where). I took a second to compose myself before asking the RD if they heard what happened over the phone. She didn’t, so I had to repeat what the girls told me. I could tell the RD was a little shocked by what I told her because all I heard was “Oh” and then a pause for a few seconds. It sounds awkward for them to just say it like that, but that’s just how the relationship was between the residents and a few RAs.

There are a few other things (interrupting freshmen having sex, walking in on people when they get in/out of the shower, finding condom wrappers in my room from the last RA who lived there) but these were the top things I could think of.

Residence hall decorations (aka “Passives”)

Have you ever walked around a dorm and seen all of the bulletin boards covered in butcher paper that are different shade of the rainbow? Those are called passives!

Passives are usually bulletin boards filled with some type of information. The information we put up depends on what time of year it is. Beginning of the year? We’ll post shuttle numbers and maps, cheap and easy things to fix in your dorm/kitchen, tips to get along with your roommate. Middle of the semester? We’ll post study tips, cheap restaurants in town (that deliver!), good coffee and food places on campus. End of the year? Apartments around town and move out information are the usual things we post.

We’ll also post important information for you to know like safety tips, information that’s hall specific, and things that the Department of Housing and Residential Life want us to post.

These are a lot of fun to do, especially because we get to be creative with them. Yes, we can Google ideas or look at Pinterest, but sometimes things aren’t as cool.

Emergency Device Inspections

The smoke detector that is in my living room. Photo by Cameron Campbell.

Hey, there! This blog might be a little shorter than others since I’ll have a video on YouTube.

Emergency Device Inspections (more commonly known as EDIs) are a thing that pairs of RAs do. Before COVID-19, we did EDIs once a month every semester. Now we’ve only done them once each semester. They aren’t a lot of fun, but they are pretty easy.

What we do during EDIS is simple. We knock on the front door 3 times until we get an answer. If we get no answer, then we have to use the master key to get into the apartment. Once in the apartment, we do a quick glance around the apartment to see if they have anything they’re not allowed to have- and when I say GLANCE, I mean it. Residents for some reason think we go through their things (which we don’t do, but they don’t listen).

Things that aren’t allowed are generally candles, alcohol (if under 21), drugs, smoke detectors that have been tampered with, and unregistered animals. Anything we see has to be documented in our paperwork that we do afterwards.

If a resident is under 21 or one person living in the apartment is under 21, then we have to confiscate the alcohol container. If the resident/residents are there, we have to call UPD, but if they’re not present then we just handle it ourselves. The same can be said for drugs and drug paraphernalia, but we don’t take anything. If it’s an animal, we take photos or just email the RD, but normally we know if the resident has either a service animal or an emotional support animal. Another hassle we have to deal with is if someone takes apartment their smoke detector or try to take it off the ceiling.

If they do end up having something wrong in their apartment, then they end up failing. If they fail, then we have to come back and recheck the apartment to make sure they passed.

Events of Res Life

A photo of residents in the Beretta lobby at an event I hosted last year. Photo by Cameron Campbell.

Hello! It’s been a minute since I’ve written something for you to k now about res life and RA life. What I’ll be talking to you about this time, as you can tell from the title, is events.

Events as an RA can be a lot of fun since we get some type of creative control. For events, we either get to do events as “community builders” or we get to do them as “BRE events (Bobcat Residential Experience.”

Community builders are basically events we throw to encourage friendships and a sense of community amongst residents. In the past, I’ve baked cookies or hosted a coloring event as a community builder. These are the events where resident participation are usually the highest. Here is a link where sometimes RAs look for event ideas:

The BRE/Bobcat Residential Experience events are the less fun events (in my opinion). These are the events where we are given an outline of some kind about the event. The events are generally geared towards giving the residents good information about things like finances, time management, and mental well-being. Some of them are okay, but others are straight up boring. These are the ones where resident participation is generally at a lower point.

One thing that we have to do if we want to have snacks and drinks is fill out what’s called a petty cash request. Petty cash requests allow us to buy drinks, snacks, and anything else we can think of for an event like cups, plates, or other things like paint or crayons. Petty cash requests can be to nearly any time of store in the town. Walmart and HEB tend to be the usual ones, but others that have been done are Target and Hobby Lobby.

On the requests, we have to fill out every single item that we want, how much of the item, and the price. Luckily the form is an Excel form so it automatically calculates the price by the quantity. In case our pricing is a little off, the person in charge of petty cash in the department gives us $10-$15 more. We also get a tax exempt card for the store we go to. If we screw up or if the store screws us over, we end up having to pay the department back after we take the change back.

What it’s like to be an RA during a pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic first happened, I was going through some personal stuff (grandfather died, dog died, mom diagnosed with breast cancer). I was happy to have a two week spring break at the beginning. I desperately needed a break.

How it went down for RAs was this: we got the email from the university about the extra week and then remote delivery starting at the end of March, I was unsure how much longer I’d still be there. The department still wasn’t sure what would happen, but RAs would’ve been required to return for the second week of spring break (none of us were happy about it). Since not much was known about COVID-19 at the time, we were told to keep our distance, wash our hands, and stay home if we weren’t feeling good.

We had also been given a choice: either stay here on campus to be there for the students who couldn’t go home or leave and be able to return in the fall. I left to be with my family and come back in the fall.

Once I was back, there were a lot of new rules. No guests at all, only one person in the office at a time, no more in-person events, and on campus residents were now allowed to have fridges and microwaves in their rooms. Cleaning had also been increased for some halls; others had changed cleaning schedules.

Have residents followed the rules? Not entirely. My hall is more lenient on the guest policy because residents can separate themselves from their roommate. They also ignore COVID-19 precautions and still have parties every once in a while.

Next up: Come back and see!

What it’s like to be an RA during a snowstorm

View from outside my apartment during the storm. Photo by Cameron Campbell.

The snowstorm of 2021 was not one of my favorite memories as an RA. It was cold, scary, and I had no idea what I was going to do if I ended up without power for a long time. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what to do, though. My coworkers and I were all confused and struggling to get info from our boss and to also pass info along to our residents.

The next scary thing was not having power during most of the day. From that Monday morning at around two or three in the morning to to late Tuesday night we were without power. From that night to the next night at around 10:30pm/11pm we experienced the power coming back every two and a half to three hours for only thirty to forty-five minutes. As soon as the power came on everyone ran to the nearest or free outlet to charge phones, laptops, and rechargeable batteries. Unfortunately, we had still had no cell phone service.

The other scary thing was not knowing if or when we’d get help. We had found out about the warming buses on campus and food there at the dining halls, and we had asked about those things coming over to my residence hall since we weren’t directly on campus. We knew our residents were cold because they had no power. Plus, one of my coworkers went to check on some of their residents and saw their breath.

We asked for help and were told no. The help we deserved only came once the issues we were facing became public knowledge and parents got mad. Once word got out about how we were not doing too well, help came in. I’ll spare the extra details about what happened and what came after (apparently RAs can’t tell the proper narrative about what happened).

At the end of the day, I’m thankful that I am still alive. I’m thankful that my coworkers and I were able to become closer by bonding through the trauma brought on from the store.

Next Up: What it’s like to be an RA during a pandemic

Duties of an RA: Part 2

My dorm’s office hours posted for all to see. Photo by Cameron Campbell.

Desk is a somewhat easy, somewhat difficult part of being an RA. The desk is where many things happen. One newer thing from the housing department is that every RA has to work either 6 or 8 hours, and this is more dependent on the size of each staff. If you have more RAs, you work 6 hours; if your staff is smaller, you’ll work more hours but with Desk Assistants taking the leftover hours.

Mail is one thing we encounter at desk, and it’s not always a fun thing to do. USPS, UPS, FedEx, and Amazon all are required to come to the front desk. Amazon has gotten a lot better about delivering stuff there. They used to have a bad habit of just dropping things off at people’s front door. Once packages have gotten to us, we count the number we got and log it in the computer. After that, we search for names in the database to ensure we only receive packages for current residents (if they don’t live with us, it gets returned). After that, we finish logging it and send residents an email letting them know to come get it. Once it has been two weeks, packages get sent back or forwarded.

Lockouts are also a pretty common thing that happen. for something that seems so simple, there’s A LOT of paperwork involved. Each time it happens, we have to explain that they’ll be charged for needing to get back into their room/apartment. If they get locked out during the hours of 10am-10pm, they only get charged $5; if they get locked out between 10pm-10am, they get charged $25. If they get locked out, but bring the key back, they don’t get charged too much. The only time they get charged a lot of money is if they need to get the locks replaced.

Another aspect of desk is answering phones. This plays a huge part of our job, even though we don’t get many calls. The worst, and I mean ABSOLUTE WORST, calls we get are usually from parents. There are a lot of protocols that come along with being an RA, and parents don’t understand what confidentiality is.

Duties of an RA: Part 1

This is the route I take when doing my rounds every three weeks. Picture by Cameron Campbell

As an RA, you have to do these walks called rounds around your residence hall multiple times a night. It’s not an all-night thing; our three rounds have to be done within the time from 7pm-12am each weekday night (which is considered Sunday-Thursday), 7pm-2am each weekend night (which is Friday and Saturday), and two extra rounds done during the day on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm-7pm. It can be a little confusing at first, but its easy to remember after a few weeks.

What we have to do during each round is simple depending on your residence hall. At mine, we walk around outside to make sure people aren’t trying to break in, and make sure there aren’t any parties being thrown (yes, even in a pandemic). We also have to take mental note of anything we see that could be out of the ordinary. If we see any water heaters sitting outside, furniture that’s supposed to be inside, and also having to try and locate “funny” smells coming from somewhere.

If anything happens and we need backup, we either call our secondary (who is another RA that’s on-call with us), or we call the RDOC (Residence Director On-Call). The secondary usually gets called if the RA on-call is uncomfortable handling a noise complaint or can’t locate the “funny” smell. The RDOC gets called if the University Police Department is on site, if we’re handling a situation and don’t know what to do, or updating them on a situation that we’ve handled.

At the end of every night, we have to submit a report detailing the times our rounds started and ended, what we observed, and if we got any calls/who we called. Some on-call nights are easy, some on-call nights have a lot of things go wrong. It just depends on how the universe feels.

Next up: Duties of an RA: Part 2- Desk

Making Yourself at Home

One of my favorite decorations in my room. Picture by me.

Because of COVID-19, I had to seriously reevaluate how many things I brought with me while living on campus. I made sure to only bring the essentials, but I also made sure to bring the things that made me feel at home.

The things that help me feel at home are simple. I like to bring the gifts and books I’ve been given from friends and family. A cutout of the state of Texas painted like the Texas flag with the colors of Texas State. Pictures of New York and London. A Campbell soup sign.

Outside of the things to make me feel at home, I also make sure to only bring the absolute necessities: clothes, towels, toiletries, and dishes. Since I live in an apartment style dorm, I also make sure to have cleaning supplies since no one is around to clean for me.