Resident evils

The RA application process should be completed earlier, in order to reduce housing complications

With the start of the new semester comes plenty of certainties — the grades of last semester are no longer a concern, our living arrangements have been tried and tested over the course of a semester, we know this semester will see warm weather, with summer hot on its heels. And yet, some students do not even know where they are going to live next year.

How can this be, when leases were signed forever ago, back in October and November? The answer can be found in any student who is, even now, working to finish his or her Resident Advisor application and preparing for – or at least stressing about – interviews. The new generation of RAs is hard at work, and their future is far from certain.

RA applications are due near the end of this month. Then, in early February, come the group and individual interviews. Finally, in mid-March, applicants will hear whether or not they have been offered a position as an RA. If they got the job, fantastic. If not, then they find themselves in a difficult spot. Almost all other students’ living arrangements are finalized, almost all deadlines to sign leases have passed — including on-Grounds housing — and all of the unaccepted RA applicants are left to fill the gaps.

This was the case with me and several friends of mine last March. I had signed to live in Lambeth some time before and knew my room assignment before I heard back on my RA application. This is the case with all RA applicants. Unless there is some certainty of getting the post, they have to sign on to some random housing arrangement or other as a fall-back, or sign on with friends who will be forced to find a replacement should the applicant get the job.

As things turned out for me, I wound up in an apartment in Lambeth with five people I did not know. It is a great place, they are great people and I have no complaints. Some rejected applicants are not so lucky, however, nor are they the only ones inconvenienced by the process.

Non-applicants are negatively affected as well. Say, theoretically, that I was an intolerably annoying RA reject. Then these five guys would be pretty frustrated as well. Furthermore, RA applicants throw off a lot of the planning when it comes to signing leases in October and November. If you know you will be applying to be an RA, you are wary of making any binding agreement with anyone, in case you end up having to back out when you get the job. By that same token, people who would like to live with you are forced to treat you as a fairly hazy option.

The RA application process throws off many a living arrangement, both for would-be RAs and their non-applicant counterparts. One possible solution would be to have the applications due, and the interviews held, in September, which would allow for selections to be announced before the rush to sign leases. This would have the negative side-effect of eliminating rising second years from the admission pool, as few first years are going to be signing up to be an RA just one month into school. But of at least ten rising second-year applicants that I knew, only one got the job. Many would not have done well in the position — with only one year under one’s belt, how much can one hope to help out incoming students? Is the loss of those qualified rising-second years an acceptable loss to straighten out the annual housing debacle?

I cannot claim to have the answers. This solution is just one that has struck me as workable, as it frees up applicants and non-applicants during the housing bustle without forcing housing — on- or off-Grounds — to change its deadlines. Is this the best solution? I do not know. All that I know is that applying for a position as an RA, as it works now, has been a tricky process, both for me and for people I know. Friends have been forced to search for random roommates, several fellow applicants and I have been shuffled around, responding “maybe” to any friend’s housing offer that comes our way, and soon — before we hear back on RA selections — we will be signing on to this or that apartment, most likely on-Grounds, just to have a fall-back.

No one said being an RA was easy, and that is certainly not why people sign up for the job. It is a position of service to others and a long and important commitment for the students applying. The least that can be done, at least for now, is to look at steps that would ameliorate this housing frenzy.

Sam Novack’s column normally appears Tuesdays in The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at

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