MADISON – Resident assistants in the University of Wisconsin System would have the same rights as other students to lead and participate in activities anywhere on campus under a policy recommendation to be considered by the full Board of Regents next week.
The proposed systemwide policy, recommended by UW System President Kevin P. Reilly, would guide the activities of resident assistants (RAs), student employees who supervise and serve other students living in residence halls on UW campuses.
“The policy I’m recommending to the Board balances the rights and responsibilities of RAs as students and employees,” Reilly said. “I don’t expect that creating systemwide rules will halt debate on this issue, nor will the policy address every situation that might arise. But along with existing rules and regulations, this policy encourages resident assistants to take full advantage of what our campuses offer them as students themselves, and at the same time, helps them create an open and inclusive environment for students who live on campus.”
The proposed systemwide policy reads:
Resident Assistants are expected to work with student residents to create an open, inclusive, and supportive residential community. At the same time, because RAs are students themselves, they are encouraged to participate in campus activities and organizations. As such, RAs may participate in, organize, and lead any meetings or other activities, within their rooms, floors or residence halls, or anywhere else on campus, to the same extent as other students. However, they may not use their positions to inappropriately influence, pressure, or coerce student residents to attend or participate.
The recommended policy will be considered first by the Board’s Education Committee on Thursday, March 9. If the policy is adopted by the full Board on Friday, March 10, each UW institution would be responsible for developing a process to address complaints if students claim that a resident assistant violates the policy. Campuses would be required to provide information about the policy while training future resident assistants under the new guidelines.
The policy was developed after concerns were raised about the role of RAs in leading, organizing, or recruiting students for certain activities in residence halls where they live and work, as well as restrictions on such activities.
In December, Reilly appointed a working group to provide expertise about the role of RAs, the relationship of RAs to the wider campus community, and the expectations of RAs as university employees. The working group of residence-life professionals, student affairs officers, and students recommended a set of principles in early January that were used in developing the recommended policy on RA activities across the UW System.
Reilly considered the committee’s principles and the public input in developing a “common-sense” policy with legislators, campus chancellors, provosts, members of the Board of Regents and other experts.