Necessity of RA enforcement

By Chloe Mirzayi

Before spring break, The Mac Weekly ran an article [“Residential Life,” 3/13/09] by Tom Poulos, Opinion Editor. In it, Poulos uses anecdotal evidence and a narrowly constructed view of community building to argue that Residential Assistants who enforce residential life policy are “dictators who get off on power trips.” However, Poulos’s idea of community building fails to recognize that enforcement of basic community standards is an essential component of building community. Every community agrees to certain limitations and rules on behavior in order to guarantee a safe, healthy environment and Macalester dorms are certainly no exception. There also must be someone to enforce these rules. The community entrusts this person with this responsibility. I would like to be clear that rule enforcement is a responsibility for RAs, not a privilege or a power. I have never met an RA who enjoyed enforcing policy and documenting situations. Personally to me, enforcing policy is a hassle. It means I have to write a report of what happened which usually takes up to an hour out of my night. It’s not easy or fun to do. In his piece, Poulos argues that rule enforcement and community building are in opposition. This is simply not the case. Because communities are founded on rules, the RA then builds on those policies in order to create community. For instance, at the beginning of each year an RA meets with their residents to set community standards. This is because this is the most basic step of creating a community. From there the RA can work with the community to create programming, hold social events and respond to issues as they arise.

Rule enforcement is not in tension with community building; it is the foundation of forming a healthy living space. Poulos makes several unsubstantiated and flat-out false statements about the RA selection process. The process is focused on finding candidates who are good at working with other people-not just leading other people-and who truly represent the values of the college. They are not looking for enforcers at all. I should know as part of the selection process, I helped evaluate candidates. Poulos also claims that the demand for RAs outpaces the supply. I find this funny since I was waitlisted the first year I applied to be an RA. I know that many people apply for RA positions that are turned down each year. Poulos’ uses assumptions in his portrayal of the RA selection process that simply have no basis in reality. Finally, in his last paragraph, Poulos tells his story of being written up.

He portrays the situation as a bunch of poor, innocent residents celebrating a friend’s birthday when the evil RA comes and ruins their fun by making them pour out their alcohol and documenting the situation. The story can only be seen as selfish. He demonstrates a total ignorance and apathy for the residents who may have been around the room. These neighbors may have just been trying to sleep when they were awoken by the sounds of people singing happy birthday past midnight on a school night. They could have had quizzes, tests, or presentations the next day. Maybe it was even their birthday and they wanted to get a good night sleep so they could have a fun night on the town that weekend. But Poulos ignores all that and in ignoring it, he ignores the healthiness of the community he argues so passionately RAs should be building. Instead all he can think of is the cost of the alcohol being poured out. Poulos only cares about one community-his party community-and he fails to see the bigger community affected by his actions. This is the very reason Macalester RAs are needed. The punishments for rules violations aren’t harsh-I imagine if this was his first documented situation Poulos received a letter or maybe met with an RHD. Instead rules and rule enforcement are there to get residents to consider the larger community and how their actions affect them. I encourage everyone who is concerned about residential life policy or the way a particular RA enforced that policy to contact his or her RA or RHD.

Chloe Mirzayi ’10 can be reached at [email protected]