College: A Former Resident Assistant’s Guide

A lot of people can give you good, sound college-survival advice, but how many of them have been Resident Assistants? For those of you unfamiliar with the Resident Assistant, these are the people charged with keeping the peace in college dormitories. Resident Assistants answer questions, lead around lost freshman and plan events for dorm residents.

Because my university has, yet again, been ranked in Princeton Review’s top 10 party schools, you can imagine I saw some interesting, and often stupid, things throughout my tenure as a Resident Assistant. (These stupid things always amaze me, considering college students are supposed to be educated individuals gearing up to lead our country at some point).

So, if you’re just starting your first year or returning, living in the dorms can be at times challenging. I’ve assembled some tips (backed up with actual events) that might make your year run smoothly, or perhaps, will entertain you for the next 10 minutes.

1. Be a Good Neighbor and Room Mate

It’s 1:30 a.m. I hear my phone ring, and I think I’m dreaming. Seconds later, I hear a knock on my door. One of my fellow Resident Assistants is requesting my assistance in an incident. I run downstairs to find that two women on the floor have been in a drop-down-drag-out brawl in the hallway. (Apparently, they had been writing mean things on each other’s dry-erase boards for weeks). One woman kicked the other, and then the other dragged the woman down the hall by her hair. Of course, they had just returned from a bar. Everyone involved was nearly expelled, and all guilty parties had to move from the dorm.

This is extreme, but any kind of mean or catty feelings toward your neighbors can escalate. Be understanding, and if there are problems, resolve them before they get bigger.

2. Keep Your Room Clean

I know. I know. I sound like your mother. But at most universities, maids don’t come with the dorm and dining hall package. Keeping your things off the floor and your food in the fridge is not only a nice gesture toward your room mate, it also keeps bugs out of your room. Now remember: A lot of university dorms are older buildings. You wouldn’t believe the size of some of the cockroaches I have seen in the dorms!

Keep these and other creepy critters out of your room by simply keeping clothes, newspapers and food put away. Not to mention, it will make things easier to find when you’re running late for class.

3. Things You Shouldn’t Do In Public

You can be arrested for doing certain things in public. One of the most popular on college campuses (I’m guessing here) is public urination. Others are public alcohol consumption (i.e. drinking on a sidewalk, street, etc.), and public intoxication. And if you’re going to drink, make sure you can make it home. Another late night/early morning incident: It’s 2 a.m., and again, I’m sleeping. After a loud rapping on my door, a man’s voice declares it is the police. I find that a woman, who lives two doors down from me, has been found passed out on the steps outside the dorm. Her roommate refuses to take care of her, as do I, and she is promptly taken to the local jail’s drunk tank to sober up.

Going out with friends is a fun part of college, but fun can quickly become embarrassing and/or dangerous. So, keep yourself in check. And if it’s your roommate or friend who gets in trouble in public, don’t feel obligated to take care of them.

4. Respect University Property (And It Will Respect You)

One night, I came back to the dorm to find a Resident Assistant perplexed and angry about something in the stairwell. I stepped into the stairwell to find pools of a sticky, red substance trailing down the stairs and out the door. I thought someone was playing a joke. At the second-floor fire door, I could see what had happened: Someone had punched through the reinforced glass window, leaving shards of glass hanging from the door by the wire. Obviously, the glass had won this battle, and now an injured person was wondering, somewhere. The police found him at the emergency room.

Now, most people have enough sense not to punch a reinforced glass window (or anything glass for that matter). Vandalism should be reported because if the culprit isn’t caught, the entire floor or dorm ends up paying for the damage.

5. Alcohol Only Makes Things Worse

Numbers one, three and four of this list clearly involve alcohol, and so do most criminal activities and accidents on college campuses. I’m not advocating for any kind of temperance movement here. I’m just saying, and this is the Resident Assistant coming out: Have fun, and be safe.

Enjoy your time in college. Don’t ruin it by making stupid decisions. At the end of your four years, you want to prove that you learned more than how to do a keg stand.

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