The residential assistant (RA) will soon be no more.

In an email to all Residential Life (ResLife) student staff, sent on Sept. 15, Casey Wall, director of residential life and housing, announced that, starting in August 2023, the ResLife student staff structure would be reworked. The changes would mean the elimination of the traditional RA role, alongside others, that has been in place since the 1960s. The position will be replaced by several new student roles that take on different aspects of what the RA role used to entail.

The new student staffing model was developed by Wall and a team of other ResLife staff. Wall wrote in the email that the role of the RA was “no longer well-adapted” to the current needs of students. Wall went on to explain how ResLife had been taking steps toward the move.

“Five years ago, with the advent of the Master of Social Work (MSW) intern position within [ResLife], the department started the process of taking a critical look at the RA position and reimagining it to be more manageable and effective,” Wall wrote. “Since that time, the development and implementation of the Diversity Empowerment Education Program (DEEP) intern program, the Campus Connector position and the Student Operations Assistant position have all taken shape and provided positive insights while also giving us a good perspective on adding additional student staff roles to the department.”

In a BingUNews article published alongside the email on Sept. 15, it was claimed that one factor behind the change was feedback from RAs. However, several RAs have claimed they were largely left in the dark throughout the process.

One second-year RA, who wished to remain anonymous, said that they had only known of a possible change through rumors.

“Up until this point, the decision to change the RA role into a student staff model has been an unofficial rumor coming from other [professional staff (ProStaff)], coming from other RAs, coming from other departments, but not until today did they have any official communication about the role changing,” the RA said. “They sent us an email about the student staff model, which is the first we’ve ever heard of it, and an article at the same time from BingUNews, but before that any communication about the roles changing was completely rumor, hearsay from ProStaff.”

While underclassmen RAs will not be able to return to their current role, Wall described how their future employment with ResLife would work.

“When the new student staffing model goes into effect in Aug. 2023, students who were employed as RAs during the 2022–23 academic year and who continue on staff will receive the same compensation (housing & meal plan) they had previously through graduation, even though their roles and duties will change to align with the new structure,” Wall wrote. “More information about the 2023 to 2024 academic year student staff selection process will be available in the coming months, including what current RAs will need to do to indicate interest and apply for one or more of these new positions.”

Multiple RAs, however, expressed concern with the lack of detail provided about their jobs moving forward.

One anonymous RA, who resides in College-in-the-Woods, said they felt the announcement lacked clarity on multiple questions.

“Also, they said that we would keep our compensation, but nowhere in the email did it say we had guaranteed positions,” the RA wrote. “It said we can apply for them, so theoretically people are fully backed into a corner since I know many people use the RA role as a financial opportunity to support themselves. Now, people who don’t know whether or not they’re guaranteed these benefits are faced with the dilemma of either taking that chance of applying for these new roles in hopes of keeping these benefits, or [choosing to] sign leases/come up with enough money to try and actually make living on campus feasible. So many nuances could have been ironed out if things were communicated effectively, yet ResLife couldn’t do that.”

Another RA in College-in-the-Woods, who also wished to remain anonymous, described how, as a first-generation student, the RA position had given them support to attend school.

“Many RAs are first-generation students from marginalized groups who would struggle to pay for school without the RA housing bonus (myself included),” the RA wrote. “The RA program serves as a way to help students pay and get through school when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to. By removing this benefit and opting to go with a paid benefit (which will no doubt be significantly less than the free housing we receive), many students will be left without any options to help them pay for school and may not be able to complete it.”

Toward the end of the email, Wall expressed how ResLife intends to consider feedback as this transition continues.

“As we move forward this will be an iterative process, with feedback sought both formally and informally to understand how this new student staffing model is meeting residential student needs, while also keeping a pulse on how those needs continue to evolve,” Wall wrote.