Not your mom, not your babysitter: RAs on call

Caroline+Chinhuru17%2C+RA+of+Doty+4%2C+works+in+the+Doty+Hall+Office+while+on+call.+She+enjoys+the+extra+insight+she+gets+into+peoples+lives+as+an+RA.+Photo+by+Thao+Hoang18.

Caroline Chinhuru’17, RA of Doty 4, works in the Doty Hall Office while on call. She enjoys the extra insight she gets into peoples’ lives as an RA. Photo by Thao Hoang’18.

Caroline Chinhuru'17, RA of Doty 4, works in the Doty Hall Office while on call. She enjoys the extra insight she gets into peoples' lives as an RA. Photo by Thao Hoang'18.
Caroline Chinhuru’17, RA of Doty 4, works in the Doty Hall Office while on call. She enjoys the extra insight she gets into peoples’ lives as an RA. Photo by Thao Hoang’18.

Every weekend at 1 a.m., a hush falls over Macalester College. In dorm rooms across campus, students turn down their music and lower their voices for fear of the RA on call. This mysterious figure prowls the hallways, waiting for the slightest chance to write up some unsuspecting student and suck the fun out of a Friday night.

At very least, that’s how many people describe RAs on call—as authority figures to be respected and avoided at all costs.

But the reality of being on call is much more than this. Students are primarily aware of the “rounds,” during which RAs will patrol their residential halls and the surrounding area. However, being on call brings many other responsibilities as well. The first is office hours, which give Mac students the chance to talk to their RAs.

“During office hours, people will ask questions, like if they’ve misplaced their keys or want to join an org,” Sierra Pancoast ’17, Dupre 2 RA, said. “You get to act as a resource, not a mom, not a babysitter.”

Some residential buildings offer incentives for students to come visit.

“We have a compliments and candy thing going on in Doty,” Caroline Chinhuru ’17, Doty 4 RA, said. “You get very interesting reactions when you tell people about it. They’ll come for the candy, but they’ll also be very excited about the compliments.”

While sitting at a desk for extended periods of time may seem dull, many RAs relish it as an opportunity to connect with the community.

“You sit at the desk and you get to see people as they pass by,” Chinhuru said. “It’s very strange how people talk to you a lot more when you’re behind the desk. You get to see a lot more of people’s lives when you’re on call than when you’re off call, which is cool.”

Beyond holding office hours, an RA on call is also responsible for their on call phone. This acts as a sort of “Bat-signal,” alerting the RA that a student could be having some trouble.

“You have to attend to [the phone] if someone calls you,” Nichil Kantelal ’16, Wallace 3 RA, explained. “It’s generally pretty quiet, but sometimes you’ll get calls. Usually, someone is locked out of their room or worried about someone else.”

However, as a returning RA, Kantelal has gotten some less mundane calls as well.

“I had a parent call when they were looking for someone,” Kantelal said. “Their student’s phone was switched off and they couldn’t find them, so they called us asking, ‘Can you find this student?’ This has not happened very often.”

Despite the occasional interesting event, being on call is usually calm. While weekends can get more eventful, with the start of quiet hours postponed until 1 a.m. as opposed to 10 p.m. on weeknights, most Macalester students do a good job of staying in line with school rules, thanks, in part, to community standards on each floor of residence halls.

“People come together and have their voices heard and people can add to [the standards] throughout the semester,” Pancoast said. “We can address new issues and everyone is pretty responsible.”

The RAs say fostering such responsibility is their ultimate goal, not getting students in trouble. “Being an RA is not as bad or scary as people think,” Blaise Yokoyama ’17, Kirk 4, 5, 6 RA, said. “In reality, the RAs are not out to get people. We’re not ignoring policy, but we’re also not hunting down policy violations.”

Chinhuru agreed, adding, “I’m not sitting around saying, ‘Ooh, I can’t wait for someone to do something wrong, and I can write them up and be a policeman!’ That’s far from it.”

The RAs all agree that their goal is to keep Mac students safe and uphold community standards. The perks of the job, according to the RAs, aren’t free housing and getting students in trouble, but getting to know the students who populate the campus.

“We care about our residents like we care about our friends,” Chinhuru explained. “That’s one of the cool things about being an RA: your network is a lot larger than it used to be. You care about a lot more people.”