After finding out she did not get rehired as a resident advisor for the next academic year, Madie Whelan, senior business major and second year resident advisor (RA) in Gillson Hall, was caught by surprise. “I had received positive feedback and affirmations that I was doing a good job and even was told verbally by my immediate bosses that I have nothing to worry about.” But many of her fellow RAs were also not rehired and had similar reactions.
Those who were not rehired are currently in the process of figuring out what to do next. “Some RAs were really counting on this job to complete their education and for employment,” Whelan said. And now, they are trying to secure housing for next year, looking for a new job to afford school expenses, and some are not sure if they are going to return to the university.
The RAs who applied as returning went through a three-part rehiring selection process. The first part involved an application that included reflection questions, and the second part was a presentation based on prompts and follow up questions from the Office of Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE). In the third part, those in charge of the hiring process took into account the evaluations the RAs had received at the end of the fall semester.
According to Mel deVivar, assistant director for first year residential education, the number of first year RA applications has increased to between 150 and 200 a year. This year, SHaRE saw 184 total applicants applying for 77 RA positions, 37 of whom would be returning. Of the returners, 24 were applying for their second year, and 13 applied for the third year RA position. According to many RAs, the majority of the staff in all buildings did not get rehired. “I think in my building, out of the 16 RAs, only three are returning,” said Yvette Vega, sophomore psychology major and Hayes-Healy RA.
Throughout this process, SHaRE used a rubric that shows the criteria applicants must meet and outlines what they are looking for in the position holder. “This has been a change from years past, in which there was room for high subjectivity, bias and preferential treatment,” deVivar said. The selection team decided to focus on the rubric to provide more consistency to the process.
Similar to Whelan, other RAs were receiving positive feedback throughout the fall semester on their performance. “You’re calling us rockstars, you’re calling us family throughout this entire year,” said JB, a sophomore media studies major who asked not to be named. JB was placed on the RA alternate list. When JB asked their resident director why they were not rehired, they were told that the audition to be rehired started on day one of the job. “It was not the most heartening thing to hear,” JB said.
On the semester evaluations, RAs are graded based on a number scale. The highest number an RA can receive is a four. “Most of the people I talked to on my staff got threes and fours, and a lot of them were not rehired,” Vega said. Avinash Singh, junior kinesiology major and a RA in Hayes-Healy, described how he and his fellow RAs even received written comments on their evaluations that implied continued employment. Comments said “as a third year” or “in their second year they will need to work on …,” Singh said. “It led us along to believe that we were going to get our job next year.”
DeVivar acknowledges the pain that many RAs feel about the results of the selection process. “Now, it’s our job as a department to relook at our processes and make changes based on this experience,” deVivar said.