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HRL preassigns 25 percent of returning resident advisors for 2024-25 academic year

Some senior residents said they feel as if they are losing their voices in the resident advisor selection process

<p>Senior residents were informed about the change a week before the draft selection on April 3rd, according to an SR.&nbsp;</p>

Senior residents were informed about the change a week before the draft selection on April 3rd, according to an SR. 

Ahead of the 2024-25 academic year, Housing and Residence Life preassigned 25 percent of returning resident advisors to specific dorms, including all RAs with Student Disability Access Center accommodations, ahead of the customary RA drafting process. This decision caused confusion and frustration among some RAs and senior residents, who said they felt that HRL was not transparent about the reasoning for the change and did not give straightforward answers about why certain RAs were preassigned. 

The Cavalier Daily interviewed multiple RAs and SRs, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing their positions as employees of HRL.  

One SR said that in past years, RAs were selected through a draft system in which SRs met on a selected day in the spring semester and took turns selecting RAs to form their staff for the next academic year. While it was not guaranteed that SRs would be able to pick every person they wanted on their staff or that RAs would get their first choice of SR, the process has historically given SRs and RAs a certain degree of autonomy. 

According to Deputy University Spokesperson Bethanie Glover, HRL preassigned 25 percent of all returning RAs to specific dorms this year, including all RAs with SDAC accommodations.

One SR said that HRL notified SRs of this change one week before the draft selection on April 3rd. According to this SR, HRL said they preassigned certain RAs based on data — about the individual strengths and weaknesses of returning RAs — gathered from former residents through end-of-semester evaluations. 

Despite these alterations, Glover said that HRL had not made any significant changes to the resident staff selection and placement process overall. 

“Resident staff leaders will sometimes make minor changes to the [selection] process, and this year's changes were shared with senior resident staff in late March,” Glover said. “Around 25% of returning resident advisors are being pre-assigned to locations across Grounds to more evenly distribute their experiences and strengths. No new or returning applicants have been removed from the process.”

Some SRs are upset with this change, with two SRs saying that it has somewhat reduced the relative autonomy they have had when choosing their staff in past years. One of these SRs also said the change was unfair to RAs, stating that it did not take their accommodation and staffing preferences into account. 

“In regards to pre-placement, it feels extremely inequitable, especially to the RAs who have just been chosen for, instead of getting to hear their voice,” he said. “It also takes a lot of power away from the senior residents who have been entrusted with making our staff and trusted with making decisions… [Using] data points just isn't a good idea when the job we do is very relationship and human interaction based.”

He also said that the process was less transparent than usual and that the change was not communicated until late in the process. HRL did not tell RAs if they were preassigned, and SRs were asked not to inform anyone on their staff if they were preassigned, according to one SR. 

Another anonymous SR said that the data used to justify this change, which HRL told SRs was based on responses from feedback forms, was not reliable. 

“I would just highlight how that data [based on resident feedback forms] has so many existing biases,” she said. “It's not required that people have to fill out these evaluations and different RAs incentivize filling out evaluations. It's so unreliable, so the fact that that was their excuse for placing strong and weak RAs is kind of crazy to me. Also, the role that [RAs are] in is not data driven. It's all about human interaction and interpersonal skills.”

The same SR said that some RAs of color feel as if they were preassigned in buildings in order to make the dorm’s staff more diverse and that they feel tokenized as a result. In a written statement to The Cavalier Daily, another SR agreed, saying that preassigning RAs based on perceived diversity needs can make RAs feel as if they were selected for superficial reasons instead of their skills and experiences.

Rather than pre-assigning only some RAs, residential staff that spoke with The Cavalier Daily said that there might be better ways to change the draft process, such as hosting RA and SR networking events to allow RAs meet a wider range of SRs and thus make the draft process more equitable. One SR also noted that he would like any future changes to consider opinions from RAs and SRs. 

Some RAs also took issue with the change, with one anonymous RA saying she felt frustrated with HRL because the pre-assignments would not benefit RAs.

“I feel like [HRL] didn't take into consideration how any of the RAs were feeling,” she said. “It felt like we were being placed in unfamiliar situations, and I personally work best with an SR that I know and that I can establish a relationship with or at least could have had a conversation with beforehand and talked about possibly being on their staff. To randomly place so many people just disrupts how well we work together.”

Another anonymous RA said in a written statement that he felt the new system was poorly implemented, saying that it did not take input from RAs into account. 

“On the RA front, it seems like the biggest problem was people being assigned to dorms that were misaligned with their preferences,” he said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to completely ignore the requests of people who have dedicated two years of their college experience to the [HRL] program. I understand that HRL wants to spread out ‘different talents’ across all the dorms, but I think by upsetting these RAs they are only going to make things worse for themselves.” 

HRL’s student co-chairs, who work with HRL to select, train and evaluate resident staff, did not respond to requests for comment.   


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