Coming into first year, I was scared shitless of RAs and the power I thought they had. They were the police of the dorm, right? The people who would rain on my parade. The people out to get me in trouble. The people that would take all the good experiences I could potentially have in college and make them bad. There could be no one worse.
Well, I stopped thinking that after the second week of school when one of my suitemates came home piss-drunk, got naked, pissed all over the furniture in our common room (Get it? Piss-drunk?), and my RA just laughed it off. We had our furniture cleaned, and that was it. Nothing happened, other than joking that suitemate for the rest of the year about what had happened.
Later on in the semester, I actually had to be taken to the ER for a more severe incident. When I told my RA what happened, instead of being screamed at like a parent scolding their child, my RA acted calmly, called the ambulance, helped get me to the hospital, checked in with me throughout the night, and followed up after I got out just to make sure I was doing well. In the end, there was no punishment, no “I’m just disappointed in your behavior” talk, no mark on my permanent record; my RA just wanted to make sure I was safe.
So, fear not, prospective ‘Hoos, your RA’s aren’t scary, they’re not mean, they’re not out to get you, they’re not going to ruin your lives, they’re not going to stop you from making good/bad choices, they won’t harsh your mellow, they won’t stop you from having fun. They’re there for your support throughout the year.
The Top 10 Things to Remember About Having an RA at UVa:
- Safety is their main concern. So, you went out, had a couple of drinks at a party, and come home slurring your words with your eyes glazed over a bit. Are you in trouble? Probably not (Remember, my suitemate literally pissed all over our furniture and still didn’t get in trouble). If you’re stumbling and falling, passed out and unresponsive, throwing up a ton, or getting overly aggressive, that’s different because it jeopardizes someone else’s, or your own, safety. If you’re keeping yourself up, keeping your voice down, and just enjoying the buzz you’ve got, you’re likely in the clear.
- Your RA was a first year too, and they’re still a student now. Your RA made the same, stupid choices you’ll make as a first year. Your RA likely drank underage. Your RA made mistakes and still got to where s/he is now. Your RA gets it because s/he’s still a student too.
- Your RA’s job is to make your first year better. All the annoying emails s/he sends about coming to events – they’re for your benefit and enjoyment. If you don’t like what’s being planned, tell your RA! They’ve got money to spend on doing cool stuff for you. If you’ve got an idea for something that would make your first year more enjoyable, your RA will help out.
- They don’t have a quota of write-ups to meet, like a traffic cop or something like that. That’d just be weird. Most RA’s dislike writing their residents up because they’ll become good friends with everyone on the hall. Doesn’t mean they won’t do it, but it’s not something RA’s do for fun.
- UVa is a wet campus, and Charlottesville has fairly lenient first-offense repercussions for alcohol-related incidents. If you’re caught underage with alcohol, it really isn’t the end of the world. It’s not the greatest, but it’s also not going to ruin your life. Talk it over with your RA – they’ll actually help you a lot if you get in a rough spot with either the police or Residence Life.
- You don’t need to check in with your RA to do what you want to do. At other schools, you’ll have an RA always working the front entrance, taking down information on visitors, making sure extra people aren’t sleeping in a room, constantly breathing down the neck of residents, etc. UVa, because of its belief in student self-governance, doesn’t subscribe to any of those ideas for RA’s. UVa actually grants a lot of power to you as an individual in the University community. So, do what you want (within reason; don’t throw a rager on your hall or something stupid like that), but still always feel free to check in with your RA if you need help.
- If you see your RA out at a party, it’s not the end of the world. It happens more often than you’d think. Best thing to do in that scenario? Play it off cool, maybe say, “Hey” if you feel really, really compelled to acknowledge them, and then just keep to yourself or leave if you feel uncomfortable. Your RA probably won’t write you up for something you did off-Grounds, and most are very understanding.
- If you get written up, your life at UVa is not over (and it doesn’t go on your permanent record, your transcript, the COMM school won’t see it, you won’t lose your leadership position in a club, etc.). Whatever happened, talk it over with your RA, make sure it doesn’t happen again, learn from the mistake, and you’ll be fine.
- Need a place to pass out after a night of drinking? Or got sexiled by your roommate and their significant other? Are you and your roommate not getting along right now? There’s a reason your RA gets a big room to her/himself and probably has a couch or futon in there. Ask to crash on the futon or couch or air mattress or floor – whatever s/he has – for a night or two. It’s not a big deal, and you’ll become pretty close with your RA to where it’ll be just like asking a friend for a place to sleep.
- If you’re over 18, the University will almost never call and tell your parents about anything. I say almost never because if it’s life-threatening, that’s when your parents would be informed. Other than that, if you get written up by an RA for throwing a pregame in your room underage, get cited by a cop for underage possession of alcohol, or anything else that’s not too severe, the only way your parents find out is if you personally tell them. Also, if you’re under 18, you’re still considered a minor, so your parents may be informed depending on the severity of the incident.