Staff Editorial: Questioning the role RAs in alcohol policy enforcement


As Campus Life works to prep a new crew of Residential Assistants to take their posts for the coming year and a college committee works on rewriting the alcohol policy, we at The Mac Weekly would like to raise a not insignificant question – what exactly is it we want from our RAs?The current effort to revamp the alcohol policy is mainly focused on clarifying the college’s philosophy statement and making the policy easier to understand.?While it is commendable that the college make it easier for students to understand what they are getting into, the question of where RAs fit – or should fit- into the picture is arguably much more important

It is important to remember the role of the RA and their place within their respective dorms. Just as important as enforcing regulations regarding alcohol loud parties is the role of the RA in creating a community and a safe haven for the residents. Part of being an effective RA is creating and maintaining a positive relationship with the residents under their jurisdiction. However, this can be quite difficult if those residents are consistently viewing the RA solely as an enforcer.

The RA has a very difficult task in being friend and enforcer. And many times this task becomes even more complex because students don’t always use wisdom in their drinking and partying habits. When students are hesitant to listen to RAs and take advantage of them when they ask them to quiet down, it destroys the positive bonds that the RAs are trying to create. Furthermore, it makes it even more difficult for RAs to show leniency in situations where they have more discretion.

There are times, however, when RAs can be over-assertive when it isn’t necessary. This is also has a negative impact on the “community development” if students constantly feel threatened by the presence of the RA, even when there is nothing to be anxious about. Students may do things that put them in jeopardy out of fear of getting in trouble for one reason or another.

Again, this is a very difficult line to walk. The college is responsible for enforcing the law regarding drinking, and under the current system the RAs have to enforce the policies put in place by the school. What we would like to see is a more open conversation about the role RAs play on their floors and in Campus Life. Do we really want a situation where students are too concerned about getting in trouble to go to their RAs before something happens, where people who would be good RAs don’t apply or end up leaving the program because of the enforcement aspect of the job? It’s arguable that the community-building aspect of job is the more important part, especially for that crucial first year, and while there are no easy answers for how to deal with the situation, let’s at least start talking about it again.

With or without this newly revamped alcohol policy, let’s all try to do better about making things go smoothly. When it gets late and an RA asks that you turn it down, comply with the request. Be wise about the amount of alcohol that you drink- know when to stop. It looks bad on both you as well as the RA when we have incidents in which students drink too much and have episodes, whether it’s having to have the ambulance called or simply behaving in an uncivilized manner.

RAs, its is understood that you are in a very precarious position. However, it is imperative that you do build that community with students where they feel that they can trust you and are not afraid to come to you with their concerns and issues. As you are their most readily available go-to person, it is important that students feel a certain connection with you with is not based on fear and mistrust, but rather one which emphasizes comradory and openness. When this is the case, then and only then will the alcohol policy be complete.

The opininons expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by a board comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editors, and Opinion Editors. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.