Under the Radar: RA Policy Changes Part 1

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krommOn December 19, two days before potentially returning Resident Advisors had to submit their applications for the 2008-2009 school year, rising junior and senior RAs received an email from Dean Kromm, Director of Residential Programs, detailing changes to their duties. Specifically, when on-duty, they must be closer to campus at all times and cannot be in the subway.

The rationale provided by administrators, according to several current RAs, is that after the Radio Perfecto shooting, RAs should be available immediately to talk to their residents and can never be more than a ten minute walk from their residential area or building and cannot be on the subway at all. Kris Alspach, CC ’09 and Wien RA, wondered what they, as RAs, could do in a situation like that of the Radio Perfecto shooting. “They’re turning us into police officers. They’re making our responsibility for our jobs greater than our responsibility as students,” he said.

RAs are primarily in charge of directing students to the proper authorities in emergency situations rather than taking an active part in resolving violent incidents. They are not trained to “strap on a gun” and go out in the middle of the night, Alspach said.

The timing of the announcement (it was sent after all first time applications were due, during the middle of finals and after many potentially returning RAs had submitted their preferences sheet) aroused concern among several current RAs, including Alspach, who felt that the decision was being pushed under the door. He thought that his suspicions were confirmed when, during recharge week before spring semester classes started, there was a 9:30 pm meeting where the administration explained the decision.

Only 15 to 20 out of the approximately 60 junior and senior RAs were in attendance, and several RAs felt that the meeting was simply a technicality so that the administration could later say that they had listened to student concerns. “It was very clear within the first three minutes of the meeting that there were not going to be any changes,” said Chris Daniels, CC ’09 and EC RA.

Several RAs spoke up at this point, trying to find a suitable compromise in the new policy where they could be responsible for their jobs and as students and drafted a letter of complaint. Afterwards, RAs who signed on to the letter found that when their assignments were not what they had asked for when returning RAs almost always get their first choices of dorms.

One RA who was in East Campus as a junior will be in a Woodbridge walk through double, despite the fact that he had received no complaints and knew other EC RAs that were drunk multiple times on duty and got reassigned to “prime real estate.” Another was moved from EC to Broadway.

Kris Alspach was in Wien this year and had a verbal agreement with Darleny Cepin, Associate Director of Residential Programs, to go to EC with another Wien RA as a senior, but when he was told when he received another Wien assignment, he found out that Cepin said that he had “communication issues” and that she wanted to have special opportunity to help him with these issues in Wien. No one had mentioned that he had communication issues prior to his complaints about the new policy.

This year, the second year that rising sophomores could apply to be RAs, saw an astronomical increase in the number of applications, according to several RAs. In 2007-2008 there are only six or seven sophomore RAs according to Alspach and Daniels. Next year, most buildings will be far more new RAs than returners, as opposed to in the past when it was closer to 50/50, with returners mostly in freshman dorms and the LLC, which require more active work.

While at this point Alspach and Daniels are certain that the policy will not be changed for next year, they do not think that such a large influx of new, younger RAs will be able to keep control over the dorms with older students and are disappointed that the staff, which they thought of as “really supportive” this year, will be disbanded.

Stay tuned for the administration’s reaction later in the week.


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  1. wow  

    now i definitely know i'm not gonna be an ra!

  2. Not completely true  

    On-duty RAs were already required to be within 10 minutes of campus, which would most likely make the use of a subway unnecessary or inappropriate.

  3. Hmm  

    Returning to the llc as a junior...I like the fact that I'm not policed now. I don't want to be policed by some hothead sophomore

  4. 2 More Problems  

    While returning RAs do usually get better housing, it is certainly not a law and should not simply be expected.

  5. dummy  

    what is the difference between a rising junior and a senior?

  6. Thanks  

    then why not call them sophomores? Or why not call seniors "rising graduates" or something?

    • well...  

      ...I think that the term "rising (class year)" is mostly applied during your time between the lower class year and the higher one (i.e., the summer). Also, I don't think it's inappropriate to call a sophomore a rising junior if the conversation has to do with that person's upcoming junior year.

      On a different note, this entire post is littered with so many grammatical errors that it's distracting.

  7. Leonard  

    Yet another reason to live off-campus. Still wondering why more people don't do it.

  8. lol  

    so now they've got an "up-or-out" RA system in place.

    And sophomores patrolling the halls. Right, good luck finding enough qualified people.

  9. Well  

    it's stupid that RA's have to be within 10 minutes of their dorm on a Saturday morning, whether on duty or not. Secondly, when you are assigned more duties, you should be compensated accordingly.

    Thirdly, extreme incidents like Radio Perfecto should not be guiding policy decisions. This is a knee-jerk, irrational reaction to an unprecedented event that no one at Columbia had anything to do with. This is Public Safety's issue, and no one is stupid enough to seek an RA's protection/guidance over Public Safety's.

  10. Take that!  

    I love you, Chris Daniels. It's true.

  11. maybe...  

    because most people can't afford it...

  12. anyone

    want to explain to me the change in the policy? as a recent alum and ra, i think the policy was that if you were an ra on duty, you needed to be 5-10 minutes away from the dorm at the most and ideally in the dorm during the weekend for the week or two each semester that you were on duty.

    so the spirit of the rule, as i understood it, was you could make a quick trip down to k-nets for a slice of pizza if the shit wasn't hitting the fan, but the idea was to be in control of the dorm. so what exactly has changed?

    • sure  

      The policy was never that you HAD to be within a 10 minute response distance during the day when you were on duty. In my area at least, it is understood that you are IN your building from 9p-8am(the next morning).

      The response radius is the new policy. You cannot be downtown at a part-time job on a Friday during the day if you are on-duty. Furthermore, the policy makes it almost impossible to attend activities required by Core classes such as going to the opera, visiting the MET, etc. if you so happen to be on-duty over the weekend - when most of these arrangements are made.

      The outrage is because of the sheer lack in communication and unprofessional behavior of the administration. No RA would ever deny Dean Kromm the power to make executive decisions without consulting us, but to stress a "teamwork" environment and then announce the changes two days before applications were due (most already having been submitted) and during reading week is quite simply atrocious.

      • great

        thanks for the clarification. yea being on duty for 24 hrs a day for the entire weekend within a 10 minute radius is definitely a change.

        still one weekend a semester is not all that terrible really.

        the point on the lack of consultation in decision-making is well taken however. welcome to columbia.

        • except  

          not all areas schedule duty so that you only have a solid week on (and thus only one weekend to worry about it). In my area, we sign up for individual days, so it adds up to five weekend days and five weekdays or so scattered through the semester.

  13. inappropriate  

    how much more inappropriate and incorrect can you get?

    the policy change is nowhere as extreme as suggested in the reporting. the change is that on the weekend, ra's are on duty 24 hours, not just at night. the other change is that they don't need to be in the building, but can be within 10 minutes of it.

    on the topic of returning ra's who voiced dissent not getting a "prime" spot:
    have you reconsidered your qualifications? it's a damn good thing that ad's are getting tougher on their returning staff: i know of many (ra) who just skate through.

    and #14: judging by the immense number of people who applied for and didn't get any position for next year (as new staff), it's not a problem.

    i'm really sick of hearing about this "war on fun" - i think that it's more of a "war on you smoking so much pot that the entire floor reeks" and "war on drinking excessively in the hallway" or "war on not shaking the entire building with your bass at 3am". personally, that's a war that should have been underway a long time ago.

    • Wow  

      Dean Kromm is that you?

      Are you actually trying to convince us that this is good for the RAs, and that the administration is right about this stuff? And that Student Affairs is right to be shutting down bars when we have a space crisis on our campus? Either you are an administrator, or you should apply for a position on the ABC.

    • i know who that is  

      haha, thats not dean Kromm. Thats my goody goody soph RA on Wien 4. Housing expects me, a disgruntled junior who lost the lottery, to go to this vulnerable kid for advice.

      just another reason im not giving a dime to this university when i leave.

      • low blow  

        the list of insults:

        "you are dean kromm, leader of the war on fun"
        "you are a square, captain of the war on fun"
        "you are a wiener, living in a place that hasn't seen fun in a long, long time"

        (don't you love how everything always comes full circle to making fun of wien?)

  14. thing is  

    sophomore RAs are usually placed around the first year or "sophomore" dorms.

    rarely in upperclassmen dorm - only one or two per building.

  15. Former RA  

    Its practically policy that the best RA's, the ones who have substantial integrity and work ethic, are identified as "leaders" and end up placed in worse housing than they started in, because thats where the real talent is needed. It happened to me. Its happening to them. And I wouldn't put it past Scully-Kromm to do it in retribution for having the audacity to complain. It was made abundantly clear to me that if I wasn't willing to bend over and take it, that I had outlived my usefulness to ResPrograms and that I was completely expendable, despite the speeches that had been given to me mere days earlier about how I had been given this position because I was an example of what an RA should be.

    Kromm is a master of spin. Everything anyone ever says in opposition to her is an infantile, immature attack. But when she adopts a "my-way-or-the-highway" attitude, basically saying "play by my rules or I'll take my ball and go home", she's not being inflexible or immature at all. She makes a practice of infantilzing and casting blame anyone who gets in the way of her agenda, going so far as to state to my face that my attempts to apologize in advance for the behavior of my mother (who had gone ballistic, found Columbia People search, and started calling people without my knowledge) were threats to sic my mommy on her.

    All of this while her staff cultivates an atmosphere of teamwork and family.

    It was a rude awakening to be sure, but the fact stands ResPrograms does not exist to make our lives better. ResPrograms exists to make ResProgams' ( and the administration-at-large's) life easier by acting as a buffer to Columbia's liability for any misfortune which might befall students, especially that brought upon by other students, or upon themselves. Not to engender community, not to enhance our experience at Columbia and certainly not to do right by their own employees (specifically ironic given that they are a subdivision of Student Development). The other "functions" only exist as they facilitate the primary purpose of liability-migitation.

    The sooner you realize that, the better equipped you are to deal with them.

    • exactly

      ras are all about managing liability for the university. take your free housing and your stipend and do the absolute minimum to get by.

      you should take the maxim of one of the campus security guards, who was quoted on bwog. "when i see shit going down, i just look the other way. that's just one more thing i need to write up in my book."

      so when is part ii coming out?

  16. haha  

    stop whining you square

  17. Argh  

    I wish I could just take the money from my grant that goes to housing and just use it for an off-campus apt.

  18. #23  

    needs to get laid. Untwist those pannies and enjoy college instead of being a douche.

    • seriously?  

      Are we so childish as to insult one another in such way? Plus, I think the guy's got a point. As for the policy change, why is everyone so worked up about this? It's their damned job to be there for residents is it not? Okay, I don't expect them to be police, strapin' guns or anything but when shit goes down, the RA should be there; isn't that their job or has the university been lying to me about this for the past few years? Plus, it's 5-10 minutes for response! CAVA, for example has to respond in 4 and they seem to do an okay job at it - and they don't even get free housing. I'd like to think that anyone who has a problem with this are RA's who are too damned lazy to do their damned job. Thanks, guys... I see I can really rely on you guys when I need help... which may be the exact reason why I just by-pass the RA and talk to the AD's when I got a problem... And I don't care what anyone says, Dean Kromm does an excellent job.

  19. Dominique  

    Maybe if they made being an RA more accessible to everyone, they could get people who wouldn't mind altering their weekend plans. As it stands, if you are on financial aid and become an RA, Columbia can (and will) dock your aid amount for the amount previously going toward housing. I'm all for saving some money, and I'd be willing to rearrange the way I spend my weekends to do it, but if you're on Financial Aid, you really don't save yourself any money, which, let's be honest, is a strong reason why a lot of people become RA's in the first place.

  20. blaming your issues  

    on your RA, be s/he a goody-goody or not is just plain immature — who's the little kid now?

  21. oops  

    that was in reply to #32

  22. #23 and #37  

    Are the same person. Coming from Wallach.

    • well according

      to the bwog tracker, they are not.

    • to zvs  

      way to try to be a dick and look at IP's, then post, then edit your comment (#40 originally read "Are the same person. Coming from Wallach. Isn't that where Dean Kromm lives?"). if you're going to try to reveal someone's anonymity at least don't lie and say that 2 posts are coming from the same source, since anyone with the slightest bit of reasoning (click the "track" button or look at the wording/ lack of capitalization etc) would realize that they aren't.

      • ZvS  

        Sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't even get a chance to read this thread until just now, nor would I be casually breaking anyone's anonymity. Did it occur to you that poster #40 could be making things up?

      • ZvS  

        Also, just for the sake of clarification, nobody is editing comments. I'm the only one on Bwog staff with that ability, and I assure you that I'm not using it to promote a partisan position on a thread about RA policy. I don't live in the residence halls, and I have no interest in this issue.

        The only time Bwog edits the text of comments is at the author's request to remove personal information. And when we do so, we leave a note.

  23. hardly...  

    yes, Dean Kromm lives in Wallach. Yes, I am in fact sitting in Wallach. But sorry guy, 23 and 37 are not the same person. Better luck with your uber hacking skills next time, idiot. Plus, who gives a damn who I am? Is that the best counter you can come up with? WEAK at best.

  24. #42  

    Is the same as #23 and #37, also coming from the same IP address in Wallach.

    • well then  

      since you realized that this is not dean kromm but in fact one of your peers, feel free to come up and knock and we can discuss our views in a more civilized manner, if you wish.

    • wow...  

      "Is the same as #23 and #37, also coming from the same IP address in Wallach."

      Wow I hope you're not a CS major... now I know who the real prick is... consider this: guy who wrote 23 and I (#37) live next door to one another. Try going back to elementary math and learn to read numbers again.

      • uhhhh

        Ummm each IP address is unique. So unless you are on wireless from the same router, there would be different ip addresses for your two rooms.

        • I think  

          The issue here is that the poster who "knows" the IP addresses of 23,37, et al says that they are the same, whereas the "track" feature (which highlights all comments posted by the same IP) shows that they are from different sources.

          It's really a trivial, childish issue, yet it is disturbing that someone would try to oust someone on a supposedly anonymous forum, even apparently going to great extents (editing a post, supposedly?) to mask their efforts.

          A bigger issue here is the inherent one-sidedness of the story: it's only told from the perspective of a few very angry (soon to be former?) RA's, since any RA looking to maintain their job/uphold some basic values would not make a public comment (especially in a place that would so easily oust them)

  25. alum

    when i was an RA a couple of years ago, you had to physically be in your room when you were on duty... instead of posting your cell #, they had you write your rolm phone #, so you had to be there to answer it. which sucked for everyone who studied in places other than a first-year dorm (as an upper year). this doesn't sound too bad.

    also... since when is woodbridge a bad assignment? i would have killed for it - the RA rooms there are massive (i think it's the k-line) and they're really easy to split into 2 parts.

  26. wait  

    Idon't get it. All this whining over actually having to go out of your way to fill a responsibility you voluntarily signed up for? Doesn't that kind of come with the territory?

  27. #36  

    This must be a specific issue re: your financial aid. Mine remained unchanged as an RA.

    As far as altering weekend plans - to reiterate previous comments - the respectful opposition from RAs about these new rules is that they did not take into consideration RAs who perhaps are on financial aid and depend on part-time work to help with expenses. Being on-duty on a Thurs/Friday night is not an issue currently because RAs are permitted to be anywhere they wish, except from 9p-8am the next morning, when they are expected to be in their assigned buildings or on rounds. Thus, they may work a job or participate in off-campus activities from 8am-9pm.

    I am a current RA and this issue has nothing to do with the social life of the RA and making sacrifices. All RAs are willing and able to make changes in duty schedule to accommodate fellow RAs and have done this in the past. If another RA needs me to cover a night or two...I'm all for it because when I need a favor, they're there to support me. It's the being on duty during the day that's detrimental to the RAs as students and makes the student body out to be immature children in need of babysitters instead of young adults preparing to be professionals.

  28. yoooo  

    here's my theory: Columbia is slowly making housing more and more unattractive to live in. This will induce students to move off campus, thus freeing up the one thing that's preventing Columbia from admitting more students ($$$) into this already-cramped university: housing.

  29. this is  

    the worst writing i have ever read on bwog.

  30. The King of Spain  

    Kromm et. al. seem to think that emphasizing the bureaucracy that is a necessary evil for an RA, at the expense of actual community building through personal involvement. I guarantee that the people supporting this are despised by their residents, because they are weak-willed satraps who spend no time outside of mandatory structured time helping their residents. If the residents are going to come to the RAs in times of vulnerability, then the RA can't be aloof and authoritarian, as much as he or she can't just let anything slide.

  31. The King of Spain  

    also, how has nobody made this joke?:

  32. The King of Spain  

    To be clear, there is a difference between accepting the rule and cheerleading it.

  33. Sigh  

    I don't understand why so few people comprehend the difference between the old rule and the new rule.

    OLD RULE: RAs on-duty had to be in the dorm between 9PM and 8AM overnight.

    NEW RULE: SAME AS THE OLD RULE plus RAs also have to be within ten minutes of the dorm ALL DAY LONG.

    So they're still in the dorm overnight to hold your hand, but now apparently if you're feeling a little blue while the sun is shining at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon, the RA isn't allowed to be downtown looking at paintings, working, or otherwise living their lives.

    Now do you see why the policy sucks?

    Of course, what the complaining RAs fail to recognize is that the most effective way to change ineffective policies is to ignore them.

  34. #38

    you are an idiot.

    love, #32

  35. okay  

    This post title should be "Under the RAdar"

  36. and...  

    very very pregnant...

    Go over to Barnard if you're that desperate...

  37. $$$  

    as there is an increase in responsibilities, there should be an increase in pay

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