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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Duke policy draws opposition from resident advisers

(U-WIRE) DURHAM, N.C. — Eddie Hull, Duke University’s director of residential life and housing services, is defending new policies for residential advisers, as the plan draws fire from current resident advisers.

Hull released the new contract to RAs and RA applicants last week, emphasizing a new on-call schedule for RAs, more sensitivity to RA presence, more sensitivity to RA availability in residence halls, and a new compensation package.

RAs will now begin weeknight on-call coverage at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., more RAs will be required to remain at Duke during major breaks when the halls are open, and weekend coverage will be doubled, so two RAs will be on call throughout the year on West Campus and for the first month on East Campus.

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Deb LoBiondo, assistant dean of students, said on average, RAs do not see a significantly larger on-call burden, since graduate assistants will be part of the on-call rotation next year.

Hull said the expanded coverage responded to a desire to create more community within the quads and increase safety. He added that the plan will evolve and that nothing in it is firmly set — especially doubling RA coverage on West.

“On West, frankly, the environment is different,” he said. “But if history is a good precedent of future behavior, things just seem to happen, whether it’s at parties or students coming back from events elsewhere. We’ve found it’s good to have more people on duty than fewer.”

LoBiondo said that many RAs prefer to patrol quads on the weekend with a partner, rather than alone.

Some juniors doubted the need for two RAs on the weekend. East Campus RA Hernan Urrego, a junior, said he understood many of the proposed changes but felt that on West Campus they might not be as necessary.

“For the role of the RA, in terms of helping out students and what they need, there needs to be one RA, but there doesn’t need to be two RAs to [unlock] a door,” he said. “The few times that two RAs are needed, they can always call the police. I don’t think another RA is necessary at all. I think it’s superfluous.”

Urrego said he took greater issue with the way that administrators announced the changes.

“The fact of the matter is there was no consultation with RAs,” he said. “They never gave us a hint they were talking about these things — we felt very betrayed.”

In addition, administrators will be more strict in making sure students do not hold jobs or extracurricular activities more than 10 hours per week–including but not limited to leadership in Greek organizations, Duke Student Government and The Chronicle. RAs will also not be allowed to participate in tenting in Krzyzewskiville.

“There’s been a greater sensitivity to [extracurricular involvement] this year,” LoBiondo said. “[RAs can not] be very effective if they’re away from residence halls. If they’re not there 15, 20 or 25 hours a week, I’m not sure it’s doing justice to the position.”

Hull has also proposed changing the compensation for RAs. Instead of free housing and a $1,960 stipend, RAs would receive free housing, a $1,000 stipend and a $2,000 meal package. Hull said that with the enhanced compensation, he expects RAs to eat with their residents with some regularity throughout the week.

“On East Campus, it’s a great idea, it can definitely happen and should happen,” said senior West Campus RA Vivek Munshi. “On West Campus, it’s probably a different story. People have their own agendas, people have their own friends and eating with the RA may not be at the top of the list.”

Hull said RAs would not be expected to line up residents and force them to eat but hoped RAs would more readily dine informally with their residents. “I want it to start becoming a natural part of the culture. It could become a very positive thing,” Hull said. “We’re trying increasingly to find ways for the staff to become a part of the community rather than apart from the community.”

Other RAs were less happy about the shift in compensation. Urrego said that even though he is not enthusiastic about next year’s changes, he feels like he has to do it for financial reasons. “I financially need it. Housing is free, and originally I had $2,000 to spend toward my tuition,” he said. “Now I’m not even getting that.”

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