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Davis

Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Resident assistants voice mental health concerns 

According to four RAs, the job offers little work-life balance 

 

By JENNIFER MA — campus@theaggie.org

 

Resident Assistants (RAs) are student staff members that live in the dorms; they work in exchange for free housing and meals. Their duties include providing advice and support to those living in the residence halls, organizing weekly programs and more. 

According to Alessandra Beelen, a third-year biochemistry and molecular biology major and an RA, these duties are extremely demanding; the hours are round-the-clock, and there is a lack of work-life balance.

RAs have made significant effort to inform UC Davis Student Housing that they are expected to complete too many weekly tasks, Beelan said.

“We have to have programs every single week,” Beelen said. “And on top of that, we do bulletin boards, we do occupancy checks. We also do facility checks. They’ve been very adamant on keeping the similar work structure despite multiple complaints from all of us […] I think it’s just the lack of trying to improve on things that’s kind of disheartening to hear.” 

A third-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major who requested to remain anonymous due to concerns about workplace repercussions also mentioned the taxing nature of weekly programs. 

“They made us do programming once a week,” she said. “And last year, they said that was for COVID, so that residents would have the opportunity to be able to interact with other people. But then they just continued that this year.”

Priyal Thakral, a fourth-year international relations and managerial economics double major and an RA for two years, stated that the university could be more receptive to feedback from its RAs to address RA grievances.

“I think one thing UC Davis can do better to support RAs is perhaps implement more of the feedback and suggestions we give, as I believe these suggestions could help improve the mental health of RAs,” Thakral said. 

Beelen echoed this sentiment.

“[UC Davis’ Student Housing department does] very little to ensure that our mental health is doing well,” Beelen said.

In addition to UC Davis Student Housing, Thakral shared that residents could be more supportive of RAs by making sure to follow the rules and respond to the emails they receive.

A third-year clinical nutrition and psychology double major who also requested anonymity agreed with Thakral’s statement that students can make an effort to help RAs.

“Some of us struggle with getting responses from students on their emails that they send out,” she said. “It’s kind of like we’re talking to a wall. I feel like I get it though. Everyone’s busy, especially as a first year. The last thing I was doing was going to my RA’s events and stuff, so I don’t really take that personally. I think it’s more on the university to do stuff [regarding mental health].”

According to Assistant Director of UC Davis Student Housing Lisa Papagni, UC Davis Student Housing puts in a significant amount of work to ensure that RAs have appropriate work-life balance.

“We restructured the positions such that they work in shifts, averaging 14 to 15 hours per week of shifted time with four to five hours of unscheduled time for things that come up and are unplanned,” Papagni said via email. “We schedule their work around their class schedules, and we have accommodated both academic and outside commitments.” 

Papagni further elaborated on the steps UC Davis Student Housing has taken to address mental health concerns.

  “All of our student staff members have regular meetings with professional staff members who support them with both academic and mental health resources as needed,” she said. “In partnership with the Student Health and Counseling Service department, we are in the process of hiring a Clinical Psychologist that will directly serve Student Housing and Dining students as well as the Community Advisors.”

According to Papagni, since restructuring, they have not had complaints regarding long shifts or mental health concerns. 

 

Written by: Jennifer Ma — campus@theaggie.org   

 

   

 

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