This fall, colleges across the country had to change the way they teach and interact with students, as well as the way students, faculty and staff would interact with each other. At Lewis & Clark, classes that were previously taught in person are now taught using hybrid and fully online approaches. The college also requires students, faculty and staff to wear masks in all public spaces. These daily routines are now the new normal. As students who are responsible for the safety and well-being of other students during this time, resident advisors (RAs) have had to tackle these challenges head-on. RAs are placed in dorms to help students navigate their college experience, whether through questions about campus life, classes or what type of clubs are available. As a result of the pandemic, students are in their dorm rooms and community dorm room spaces more than ever.
Ezri Rayes ’22 is a second-year RA who lives and works in Copeland Hall.
“Campus Living took a great stance of being transparent about what they knew and what they didn’t know and getting the information to us,” Rayes said. “(But it still) felt really chaotic because there were so many things that were unanswered.”
Rayes also shared that as time went on, more questions were answered, and that Campus Living reminds RAs that if they need help they can call their area director.
RAs are also trying to adjust to the new aspect of being online with their residents instead of in-person. Usually, an RA would conduct one-on-one discussions in person with resident students, however, that is no longer an option.
“Especially in a role where you are supposed to be leading and/or helping, it’s hard to do that from such a disconnection perspective,” Ava Schmidt ’23, an RA for Odell Hall, said.
Schmidt is creating ways in which she can interact more with her residents by being around them frequently in the common areas, and actively trying to get people on her floor involved in Zoom activities. She is also trying to set up community builders where people can safely social distance in the common rooms. In addition, she is trying to explore different projects students can complete in their dorms over Zoom, such as crafts.
Rayes noted that health precautions have complicated the way RAs communicate with their residents.
“It is really hard to communicate because it’s like the best I feel like I can do is send out emails,” Rayes said. “Within my emails, (I) try to let my voice be in there. I think before, I tried to be more formal.”
Erin Shaw ’22 is an RA for Copeland Hall who has made efforts to engage her residents.
“Events that we are having, I think, is a big way that people can adjust and I think also one-on-ones are really helpful,” Shaw said.
For Schmidt, acknowledging the greater role RAs have had to take on during these times is important.
“The RA role has always been about support in some capacity but I do feel like it is more about that now,” Schmidt said. “With the coronavirus, I understand that my role is more important now than ever.”
RAs have always been part of building a community at LC. Now their role in our community is more essential than ever before. They are trying to overcome the disconnect in dorms while staying in the lines of safety. They are working to make residents’ time here as positive as possible under the difficult circumstances currently facing LC.