Any on-campus Endicott student could tell you that residential life during the Fall 2020 semester has been - different, to say the least. New campus safety regulations and policies have drastically changed the way students maneuver, visit, and live inside Endicott’s dormitories; especially in some of the larger buildings which house hundreds of students.
With newly implemented and innovative regulations such as arrows on the floors and stickers guiding students to which doors they are allowed to use as exits/entrances, there are more rules than ever for on-campus students to follow in the tight living quarters. Although there is sometimes security to occasionally remind students of the safety measures they should be following, a lot of the pressure to keep Halls safe and healthy falls on Endicott’s team of dedicated student RAs.
Despite the efforts of many to follow the student compact, which presented new restrictions so as to avoid a spread of COVID-19 on Campus, there are still many who refuse and/or ignore the safety of others; throwing parties, sticking their nose out of their mask (if they’re wearing one), ignoring social distancing, etc. This behavior, which has led to spreads of COVID-19 in various parts of campus, had caused a stricter enforcement of rules as the semester continued. Most notably, students were no longer allowed to visit other dorms, even if they were only going for a quick visit or to make use of a common room.
These visitation restrictions, combined with the increasingly cold weather, led to another on-campus epidemic - loneliness. Students now have to put in much more effort to spend time with their friends, significant others, project partners, and anyone else they had once been able to freely visit on campus. In some particularly inconvenient cases, students may give up completely on trying to piece together their social lives, allowing themselves to spiral in the comfort (or discomfort) of their own dorm.
All this to say, RA’s, in addition to the myriad of other responsibilities they are typically given during a semester, have had to face two more taxing challenges - student cleanliness/compliance and general unease/unhappiness amongst their locked-in residents. As students themselves, some with other part-time jobs, this is a lot for one person to handle.
Libby Evans, an experienced RA currently working in Hawthorne Hall, shared how the pandemic lifestyle has drastically changed her approach to connecting with her residents; “Being an RA this semester has been really different from past years because we have the added responsibility of enforcing COVID guidelines on campus. It’s also been really hard to connect with residents because I’m not able to do programs the same way that I used to and college students especially aren’t excited about Zoom events. Overall though, we’re trying our best to make it work with the resources we have right now.”
Previously, Endicott’s RAs had been able to hold in-hall events that promoted social interactions and community building, which could include anything from film viewings to ice cream socials. Obviously these are no longer viable or safe options. These events heavily relied on the physical coming-together of each hall’s residents, an energy that, as Evans had stated, is completely lost through the digital translation of Zoom.
Nate Magoon, also an experienced RA currently working in Reynolds Hall, discussed his approach in ensuring the happiness of his community; “It’s been much harder to put on community building programming. Although, we have still managed to be able to build communities within our halls. It was important for me to do some virtual experiences but also to try to bring my residents some in-person experiences, while maintaining COVID guidelines. Shoutout third floor Reynolds, I love you guys.”
Optimistically, some RAs have been able to better utilize the new restrictions to grow a stronger bond between themselves and their residents and other RAs.
For example, Helen Prueitt, who is RA-ing for her first semester in Hale Hall, shared the surprisingly positive and educational experience her position has brought her; “Becoming an RA has been an amazing experience for me. I applied for the position because I wanted to become a confident leader, and I've learned a lot about how to respect myself and others. But, I'm most grateful for the opportunity to meet new people and create new relationships. Being able to meet other RAs and other students is the highlight of this position, for sure!”
Whether they had gained stronger bonds with their residents, or struggled to maintain student safety and happiness amidst the new guidelines, all of Endicott’s RAs deserve to be recognized for their adaptability and strength during the Fall 2020 semester.