Improve the Compensation of Cornell Undergraduate Resident Advisors

Improve the Compensation of Cornell Undergraduate Resident Advisors

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Cornell Resident Advisors United started this petition to Cornell University Residential and New Student Programs

To Cornell University and the Office of Residential and New Student Programs (RNSP):

We are writing on behalf of the Undergraduate Resident Advisors at Cornell University to address the issues we face as student staff. Our goal is to improve the working conditions of Resident Advisors (RAs); first, by addressing the unethical and inadequate compensation we receive, and then moving to other issues including unclear expectations of student staff, disparities in responsibilities and expectations between individual residence halls, and the high turnover of professional staff impacting student staff.

In this correspondence, we will focus on RA compensation, seeking to expand on how it not only negatively impacts student staff individually, but interferes with RNSP’s goals regarding diversity and inclusion.

The primary issue facing student staff is the lack of tangible compensation we receive for our labor. The “rent-free housing” RAs receive oftentimes reduces financial aid and/or Federal Work Study, and therefore, does little to alleviate the financial burden of attending Cornell.

As a result of the current policy, the only tangible compensation a first-semester RA in such a position receives is the $500 stipend and microfridge ($200 rental). Based on the 20 hour-per-week estimate, which is often an underestimate, this amounts to approximately $1.80 per hour. As of 12/31/18, the New York State minimum wage is $11.10.

Not only is this unacceptable from a labor perspective, it unfairly impacts RAs from lower incomes. While RAs who do not receive need-based financial aid see a decrease in their out-of-pocket cost to attend Cornell as a result of their position, RAs who do receive need-based financial aid do not. Therefore, the current compensation policy disproportionately benefits RAs from higher socioeconomic backgrounds.

As a result, first-generation, low-income, and minority students are dissuaded from applying to and/or remaining in the RA position. This directly interferes with residential staff’s ability to support residents, as the student staff demography does not reflect the diversity of the student body. While RNSP frequently states that they value student staff and our contributions to residential communities, the lack of fair compensation suggests otherwise.

We ask that Cornell University and RNSP reform the current RA compensation policy to better reflect the physical, emotional, and time-intensive demands of the position, and thus, better support both RAs and residents.

Respectfully,

Cornell Resident Advisors United

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