Fair Treatment of University of Arkansas RAs

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As universities across the United States risk students’ health by reopening on-campus undergraduate housing, Resident Assistants (RAs) are the frontline. Literally steps away from the students who contribute to increasing positive cases. RAs are still expected to bond, assist, program, and make direct contact with undergraduates every day as positive cases continue to rise on campus. Under normal conditions, RAs are passionate and selfless when fulfilling these duties. However, during a pandemic that has claimed almost 200,000 lives, RAs are just as scared and anxious as frontline workers. 

The University of Arkansas has put in numerous policies for on-campus operations to prevent the spread of COVID. Buildings and classrooms have the opportunity to be monitored and socially distanced. Residence Halls do not have the same luxury. Though UArk Housing has provided new safety “guidelines” for residents this year, RAs are expected constantly enforce mask mandates and social distancing measures for students returning from parties, other events, or simply refusing to wear masks, potentially coming into contact with COVID positive residents on a regular basis. RAs in community style restrooms must share the same space and air as their residents to use the bathroom, brush their teeth, shower, and wash their hands.

RAs are students too. They cannot be expected to be present in the hallways and other public spaces every minute of the day. UArk Housing likes to remind RAs "We are students first." However, what they seem to have forgotten is the tremendous amount of time and work lost if an RA was to become infected while simply doing their job.

In order to do this job to the best of our ability, RAs demand protective equipment, such as N95 masks, face shields, and gloves, to be provided and accessible at all times for duty rounds, programming, and interaction with residents. 

RAs demand full transparency from UArk Housing, as well. To prevent the spread of misinformation, ensure peace of mind, and guarantee safety, RAs have the right to know the status/data of isolation and quarantine rooms as they are filled on campus, especially if these residents are moving onto an RAs floor. 

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has already approved additional pay - as much as $125 for those working 1-19 hours per week - for direct care workers due to the COVID-19 emergency. RAs demand double their usual stipend as a form of hazard pay during the COVID pandemic:

1st year RAs would receive $140 monthly

2nd year RAs would receive $180 monthly

3rd year RAs would receive $220 monthly

This pandemic will continue. As COVID positive cases rise on campus, there is seemingly no end on the horizon. What is the incentive for RAs to apply again next year? What is the incentive for RAs to continue next semester? Now that RAs know what to expect from UArk Housing, many are rethinking their decision.

UArk Housing made the choice to allow students to live on campus during a global pandemic. UArk Housing made a choice by not consulting its most vulnerable employees—RAs—when it made that decision. And now UArk Housing must choose to compensate RAs for the hazards caused by its choices.