Residence Assistants Become First Responders to Party Complaints

For years Ramapo has encouraged peer-prompted conflict management, often facilitated with the help of residence assistants, who serve as a bridge between the students who live on campus and the Residence Life administrators. This year a new policy has been put into effect, in which RAs are asked to respond to party complaints before Public Safety. This policy stands in an effort to decrease outside intervention in student life, independent of academics and club-related events.

According to the assistant vice president of Communications and Public Relations, Stephen Hudik, this new policy has been considered a good fit for Ramapo after careful research.

“We periodically take a look at practices at other campuses to inform our policies and procedures to determine what may be the best fit given our own circumstances. We also review survey data and feedback shared by students,” Hudik explained.

In the past it has been common practice for RAs to work out conflicts like noise complaints; this year’s policies bring RA involvement to the next level. That being said, if an RA feels a situation is out of their control, it is then Public Safety’s responsibility to intervene, according to Hudik.

“In many cases, resident assistants respond first to complaints on issues such as noise complaints. The resident assistants work to resolve the issue but may opt to contact Public Safety or other personnel depending on the circumstances. We decided to follow this approach,” said Hudik. “If the call involves a more serious violation, Public Safety will respond first to the scene.”

According to sophomore community assistant for the Village, Tony Morales, the RAs are there to witness, not stop, a party.

"It can get dangerous, but what I was told from training is that I'm not trying to stop anything, I'm there to document. Things could get out of hand though if an apartment is crowded with a lot of people out of control,” Morales said. “Since I'm a student it’s possible to lose friends, because I'm an RA and I still have to abide by that policy which could get uncomfortable."

While this policy may put RAs in difficult situations, Residence Life has made the switch to benefit the students. Morales echoed Hudik’s statement that Residence Life takes into consideration the student surveys issued at the end of the year, attempting to implement the suggestions of those the policies actually affect.

"It's more beneficial to students because they used to say that Public Safety were the first responders … I can't speak too much on it because it is my first year as an RA, but Res. Life is a very open-minded department and they're making an effort to accommodate to what students have been asking for," Morales explained.

This policy harks back to the Student Government Association’s efforts to secure the Village Housing Agreement, an arrangement reached two years ago in which Village residence were encouraged to work out conflicts internally, without the intervention of Public Safety. As a result, Public Safety patrols around the Village became less frequent.

However, party-related situations that arose last year sparked cause for concern, and Public Safety’s patrols returned to normal. This prompted an open forum held by the SGA to discuss future safety procedures. Now, nearly a year later, Ramapo is again making efforts to encourage peer-to-peer conflict resolution.

“We have adopted a more flexible and more student-centered approach that is built on peer respect in responding to the broad range of situations,” Hudik said.

Students may take comfort in the fact that Public Safety will supposedly be less involved this year, yet some students, like sophomore Monica Luianna, recognize that RAs may be put into difficult situations as a result of the policy change.

“It’s harder for the RA to bust a student on something more serious. It’s bad for them but it’s good for the student because maybe they’ll be more likely to listen to an RA rather than Public Safety,” Luianna said.

As the semester is just starting, Ramapo is entering into its trial and error period with this new policy. However, Hudik assures, “We will continue to assess its effectiveness during the semester.”