Jobs, Part 9: Resident Advisor (RA), BGSU

Resident Advisor (RA) at Bowling Green State University: At some point during my second (go ahead, chuckle) Senior year, I decided it was a good idea to go from being a part-time policer of campus policy and just go all-in and become an R.A. I believe that hearing from my parents that I would, most likely, have to pay for a large chunk of my third (again, have a good laugh at my expense, it’s okay) and final Senior year may have prompted this decision.

The front door of Founders Hall

In the Spring of 1997 I took a class to officially become an R.A., and after a Summer of night-guarding, started my one year as a Resident Advisor in the Fall of 1997. Joining me in this endeavor would be my former roommate and fellow night guard, Charlie. In fact, a number of the R.A.’s I ended up working with were folks who had previously been night guards or were R.A.’s we had been on rounds with over the years, including the one who (almost) busted me and Charlie (side note: after Charlie and I became R.A.’s, she confronted us, admitted she was too in experienced to handle the situation and never forgot it. You don’t often get to be a turning point in people’s lives).

The R.A. set-up for Founders Hall was pretty nice. You shared a two-person suite, which meant having one bathroom for two people and your own bedroom with a small common area. Some folks used the small common area for things like fridges, bikes, etc. That’s if you were friendly with the person you shared the suite with, which was not my situation.

See, housing thought it wise to stick a Freshman in that suite. Imagine that, a Freshman stuck with a 6th-year R.A. I honestly don’t remember the kids name, but he was freaked from Day #1. I think it was a good two weeks before he spoke to me beyond “hi.” I fact, there is only one conversation I can recall, and it involved Oasis. It went like this:

INT. RIGHT DORM ROOM – DAY
Tim sits at his desk working, Oasis plays on the stereo. The b-side “Acquiesce” plays.” Freshman roommate appears in the doorway.

FRESHMAN ROOMMATE
Are you listening to Oasis?

TIM
Yeah, you like them?

FRESHMAN ROOMMATE
Yeah, that’s my favorite song.

TIM
Cool.

Freshman roomate leaves doorway, never again speaking at such length.

Now, the age difference and my position no doubt hurt our relationship, but if this proverbial camel had a back, there was one straw that officially broke it.

Me with one of my residents

Sometime during the Fall semester I was on a weekend round of the building with a pair of night guards when we happened upon a very loud room that refused to answer their door. After getting no response, I contacted the other R.A. on duty and had them contact campus police. Shortly after that, the door finally opened and we entered to find about two dozen people acting nonchalantly, but in a bathroom we found several garbage bags filled with empty beer cans and bottles. Problem was, there wasn’t a single of age student in the room, so empty or not, everyone’s getting busted.

As we start getting names and I.D.’s from people around the room, the second R.A. and campus cop show up, and right about that time I realize that among the crowd is my Freshman suite-mate. I step out of the room with the other R.A. and explain the OH SHIT information, and they decide to lead the bust as to avoid the all ready uncomfortable scenario of writing up the guy who lives in the same suite as me.

Well, it didn’t matter, because the kid never spoke to me again, and when we returned from Winter break, he had moved out and the room was vacant. I can’t blame him, who’d want that kind of living situation when you’re just trying to survive/enjoy college.

Me and Charlie on RA duty together

When it comes to being an R.A, you can really take a number of different approaches, chief among them are the “hardass” and “laid back.” I definitely fell into the latter category. We had a floor meeting at the beginning of the Fall semester, and I said matter of factly that I didn’t care what they did, just keep it quiet and I wouldn’t bother them, and by bother them I meant doing all the sorts of lame forced “community building” that I despised as a Freshman. Sure, we had a few “floor nights” that involved ordering pizza and watching Dazed and Confused in a community multi-purpose room, but the really annoying stuff – everyone decorating the hallway to win a prize or “best dressed door”  contests, were things I left up to individuals.

Most of my hall stuck around for the full year, and they earned a reputation as a group of partiers, which was fine with me because they rarely got in trouble. I think, once, I got word about noise problems with one room, a group of jockish guys who I’m sure were up to no good behind my back. But six guys in one room, with all that Freshman testosterone and adrenaline flowing, c’mon, everyone once in awhile their gonna raise their voice past the designated time.

For the most part, I enjoyed being an R.A. The years spent as a night guard were a good primer, and looking back I think it’s worthwhile for everyone, at least once while they’re young, to be in a position of authority to understand the responsibilities and headaches that go along with it. Maybe I look back with more fondness because it was last year of college and the real world was right around the corner, but I happy I had the experience.

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