By Sameera Sheikh
Out of the many Residential Assistants interviewed for the “Beyond the Paycheck” Series by The Record, I didn’t know that my experience would be the one to be highlighted. Therefore, I would like to clarify that my intention was not to slander Residential Life.
I’d like to start off by stating that there were good parts of my experience being a Residential Assistant (RA). I was a sophomore at the time, worked in Lottie and it was my first time being an RA. The aspect of my job that I loved and excelled at was interacting with my residents.
As an extrovert and people’s person, I was able to build trust and true friendships with my residents, whereas most residents choose to avoid their RAs like the plague. I understood space, boundaries and refused to have the “I’m the boss” attitude when approaching my residents, making them comfortable enough to share personal stories with me. I needed personal and professional development with time management, and Residential Life was able to help me improve.
However, in my personal experience, the bad parts outweigh the good. I was unable to put myself first as an individual and student while an RA.
This affected my mental and emotional health as well as my grades. When I had scheduling conflicts with homework, study group meetings or St. Ben’s Senate meetings, I was penalized for not being professional enough. While Residential Life is supposed to come before extracurriculars, this was addressed to me on multiple occasions to the point that I felt harassed for making that one mistake.
I also had to endure side comments made about me and my involvement in SBS during my staff meetings. Since I am an assertive individual, I brought up the concern of my treatment face-to-face with my supervisor at the time, who became uncomfortable with the confrontation when asked “is there a cultural reason as to why I am being treated this way?” Whoever I talked to made me feel that I was too sensitive, and I was being treated harshly because of my mistakes, with no concern over the approach of how I was being treated.
Furthermore, I was penalized for things such as sending emails at 3 a.m. having a late bedtime and handing in intentional interactions a couple of hours past the deadline, while my co-RAs were either doing the same thing or worse.
The only difference between myself and my co-RAs was that I was vocal about how I felt treated unfairly. Some of these things were not addressed to me in a timely fashion to allow for an improvement period.
Any action against my supervisor only seemed to be taken when my co-RAs were either white or not assertive.
New RAs need support, not repetitive penalization. I felt like I was not re-hired under some grounds of a culturally biased evaluation of my job performance from a culturally incompetent supervisor who didn’t know how to work with my assertive personality, individualism or cultural background. Residential Life has made contract improvements for students who are out-of-state.
However, this technical improvement does not equate the complex improvement needed for students who feel racially or culturally penalized. RAs should not be penalized because they speak up.
This is the opinion of Sameera Sheikh, CSB junior