RA applications up from last year's low numbers

By David Hertz

New Residential Assistant applications recovered this year after an unusually low number of students applied to be new –RAs last year, but the pool may not be as diverse as groups from previous years, according to Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards.Of the 33 spots available, 17 current RAs will return and 16 new RAs have been chosen from a pool of 29 applicants. Last year, only 18 students applied for 13 new RA positions.

“Having two candidates for each opening has been more the norm and last years numbers were a bit of a dip which happens from time to time,” Edwards said in an email.

Campus Life administrators had various explanations for the approximately 50 percent increase in new applicants.

“My best explanation for that is that people heard it was so hard to get a position for that before,” Edwards said. The year before the dip in applicants, 48 new RA applicants competed for about one third as many spots, an unusually competitive year.

“It could just be one of those cyclical things,” said returning RA Andy Pragacz ’10, “but there could definitely be some kind of relation to the class that was applying. Last year when I was in Doty-Turck we had a lot of documentations. The relation between Res Life and the sophomore class I don’t feel is ideal. In a lot of ways I feel the sophomore class sees Res Life as an authority rather than a [leader].”

Pragacz said it was “extremely plausible” that new initiatives to improve residence hall communities, like the Community Learning Model used this year, could have made a difference in how the freshman class views Residential Life.

“All the RAs over there [in Doty-Turck] just rave about their students and they seem to have an extremely good relationship [with first years].”

The simplest explanation:

“I don’t think there’s anything different from the current sophomores that applied and the current freshmen that applied,” said Peg Olson, associate director of Res Life. “I think sometimes it is just . a little anomaly.”

“I wasn’t worried. We put a lot of time and energy and effort into [publicizing RA positions],” Edwards said.

Edward’s main concern about the RA and Orientation Leader (OL) applicant pools: “This year’s applicant pool was not as diverse in terms of racial and ethnic diversity as we have seen in the past and that we would like,” Edwards said. “It’s important for them to be able to connect with a wide variety of people, and we’ll have to think about how to attract more.”

Pragacz, who helped to evaluate the new pool, agreed. “It was pretty blatant. In the station I was at, almost everyone that [came] in was very white, mostly not international students. It was kind of awkward.”

The lack of diversity may have been due to a lack of outreach to minority student, Edwards said.

“Perhaps some of it is we’ve just had such good success attracting diverse candidates [in the past] that we didn’t focus on that this year.”

Interest in the OL position was up this year. For roughly 32 OL positions, typically 10 to 15 are left open after the initial recruitment process. This year, only five positions remain to be filled in the coming weeks.

Edwards accounted for the change by citing a new initiative to identify potential OLs, such as collecting names of freshmen who might be interested in becoming OLs from current OLs.

“We had a good list of names right after orientation. That’s something that we haven’t done before and that maybe accounts for some of the increase in orientation leader candidates,” said Edwards.

Edwards hoped to address the lack of diversity in the pool by filling the remaining five spots. Campus Life is contacting identity collectives and student cultural organizations to raise interest in the positions.

Overall, this year’s RA applicants seem to have overcome last year’s dip.

“We think we’re back to [the norm],” Olson said.