The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Community building

By Jacob Weindling

Recently, there have been a number of broad statements made in the Mac Weekly regarding Residential Assistants and their role in community building. We believe that a definition of community building is required for a reasonable discussion to proceed. A community is not simply a group of people living in the same building, but the relationships and mutual understanding forged through daily interactions. A strong community is recognizable by the level of respect and accountability that members display towards each other.

Authentic community is what we strive for. We believe that the past year has been a fantastic one for the Residential Life program. Incident reports have plummeted in number from prior years, while Residential Assistant applications were up more than 50% from last year. Community involvement in floor meetings and programming events has risen as well

A community is never expected to merely come into existence. It requires the efforts of its members to build an authentic community, rather than simply a communal living space. The task of facilitating community building with residents falls on our shoulders as Residential Assistants, but it is a challenge that we look forward to. Although we strive to build inclusive communities based upon education, respect, and understanding, our positions also undeniably require a level of policy enforcement. Our job, in this regard, is not about being nice. It is instead to hold students who make the decision to knowingly violate policies accountable for their actions. It is not a part of the job we relish, and any Resident Assistant will tell you that documenting situations is often a dreaded, awkward, and stressful experience. It’s no exaggeration to say we would be overjoyed if we never had to confront a situation or write an incident report again. However, a community where everyone got to do whatever they wanted and were not held accountable would not be an authentic community, nor would it be a place that many Macalester students would want to live. It is also important to remember that Resident Assistants play no part in conduct decisions or sanctions, but rather confront situations that could negatively impact either individual residents or the community as a whole. The conduct process itself is an educational one, which is specifically designed to balance individual learning and growth with the norms and expectations of other members of the community.

While each Resident Assistant is unique, the vetting process for becoming a Residential Assistant is not trivial. Recommendations from faculty and current residential life student staff are required for application, and the potential Resident Assistants undergo an afternoon of activities and evaluation where they are each observed by several current Residential Assistants for leadership potential, energy, ability to get along with others, and empathy. Candidates are then interviewed on a one to one basis by members of the professional Residential and Campus Life staff. This process ensures only strong candidates showing potential, skill, caring and enthusiasm are chosen for the position.

The end result is a staff of dedicated and caring people working diligently for the benefit of the community. We can’t do it alone though, and we invite the student body to join us in making the Macalester dormitories a better place for everyone to live. We strongly encourage students to speak with their RAs about any concerns they have in order to continue what we consider to be a positive, active change in the Macalester Residence Halls and floor communities.

Jacob Weindling ’10 can be reached at [email protected]

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