Communication, policies cited in Dwight RA losses

By Samuel Charles

Ten students have vacated their positions as resident assistants in Columbia’s newest student residence center, The Dwight, since the start of the

academic year.

Communication issues disputed employment practices and between the Office of Residence Life and former resident assistants worsened the working

environment and were some reasons for the departures, according to students who’ve recently vacated

the position.

Columbia severed ties with the student residence halls at 2 E. 8th St. and the 18 E. Congress Parkway Building at the start of the academic year, instead opting to lease The Dwight, 642 S. Clark St., for five years. But, within the first year of the college’s lease, several of the building’s RAs were terminated or have quit for various reasons.

“It got to be too much,” said former Dwight RA and senior marketing communication major Racquel Townsend. “They wanted me to stay, but I needed to [leave] for myself. It was stressful.”

Meanwhile, the students fired by Columbia think the college was irrational in its decision to relieve them of their duties.

Brandon Graham, another former RA at The Dwight and a senior interdisciplinary major, was terminated after a resident accused him of entering her room without her knowledge.

Graham said he entered the room with another RA to perform a scheduled room inspection, which the residents were made aware of weeks in advance.

The incident, which occurred the week of March 14, prompted Graham to contact the accuser’s parents—a decision frowned upon by the Office of Residence Life.

“Within a situation like that, that was more of a personal attack [against me], Graham said. “Criminal action could’ve been taken against me, not as an RA, but as a man entering a girl’s room.”

He spoke with the woman who accused him of entering her room, and according to Graham, she said she was “disoriented” by the situation.

The Office of Residence Life based its decision to terminate him on what the accuser’s parents said, not the accuser, Graham said. His family had to hire an attorney to help obtain his last paycheck.

Because of regulations set forth by the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act, the Office of Residence Life could not comment on Graham’s nor any other individual student’s case in particular.

Townsend, who was an RA at Chicago State University before transferring to Columbia, left her job by her volition.

She said the office’s method for hiring RAs may be a reason why so many haven’t finished the year.

Columbia trains its RAs in different situations, such as encounters with drugs and alcohol and room inspections after they’re hired, Townsend said.

Other schools, however, approach training methods differently.

“We did our mock training [at Chicago State] in our interview, so they would know how we would handle a situation,” Townsend said. “Columbia does that after you’re hired, which I think is a backward way of doing things. When you do that after you’re hired, you see how incompetent some of the kids were in

different situations.”