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Resident Assistant Working Group Final Report - Jan 11, 2006

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The following is the final report of the Resident Assistant Working Group. Public feedback on these principles was accepted until Feb. 10, 2006.

Resident Assistant Working Group Final Report

January 11, 2006

Introduction and Background

The Resident Assistant (RA) Working Group was convened to consider the degree of influence RAs exercise within the residence halls, their responsibility for providing an open, inclusive, and supportive environment for all students who live in residence halls, and RAs' own personal interests in being engaged and active participants in campus life.  This examination was to include consideration of the role of RAs in residence life programs, the relationship of RA activities to the wider educational experiences we offer our students, and the expectations placed on RAs as university employees.  Specifically, the Working Group was asked to recommend principles about the RA role that could provide the basis for a systemwide policy on this issue.

Description and Background Information on the Resident Assistant Position

The Working Group believed that an understanding of the RA position was necessary to understanding the principles that should, in part, define the RA's role and relationship with student residents and the university.  The RA occupies a unique position at a university, different from other university employees.  For example, unlike other employees, RAs live with the residents with whom they work. As such, their room is both a personal space and a work space.  Also, unlike other employees, RAs must be prepared to fulfill employment-related responsibilities any time they are in their room or residence hall.  These responsibilities include being available to residents to provide advice and support, and to deal with resident problems and issues.  In order to do this effectively, RAs must be available and approachable to student residents.  Another unique feature of the RA position is the leadership and support relationship that they have with student residents.  In this role, they may have a very influential impact on the development of student residents.  At the same time, it is important to remember that RAs are students themselves, pursuing their own educational and social development.

Current Practices among UW System Institutions

The Working Group found that there is general agreement among UW System institutions in how they define the rights and responsibilities of RAs. In particular, there is agreement that RAs can participate in, organize, or lead meetings as long as they don't use their position to inappropriately influence, pressure, or coerce student residents to attend. The determination of where the meetings may be held has been left to the discretion of the individual institutions.

Principles of Resident Assistant Rights and Responsibilities

As a marketplace of ideas and free expression, the University supports the full expression of free speech and other rights of RAs as it does with all employees and students.  The University also respects the rights of individuals, including employees, to have their own belief system and protects their rights for personal value exploration.  In this context and in consideration of the unique position held by the RAs, the following principles should guide development of policies pertaining to the RA role. 

Principles

  1. RAs are expected to work with student residents to create an open, inclusive, and supportive residential community.
  2. RAs are expected to encourage student engagement in campus activities and organizations, and to promote opportunities for student residents to explore their values and beliefs.
  3. Because the University encourages student engagement in campus activities and organizations as an essential component of students' educational experience, and because individuals holding RA positions are students, RAs are encouraged to participate in campus activities and organizations.
  4. The University, as employer, has the right to establish reasonable restrictions on RA activities as a condition of employment, due to the unique requirements of the RA position.
  5. RAs should not use their position to inappropriately influence, pressure, or coerce student residents.