Wharton CD 3rd and Strath Haven Without RAs

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The residents of Wharton CD 3rd and Strath Haven are facing a unique situation this year: no RAs on their halls. There are currently 49 RAs living on halls across campus, two fewer than last year. After much consideration, Rachel Head, the Assistant Dean for Residential Life, and the Housing Committee determined that RAs in Wharton CD 3rd and Strath Haven were not necessary, especially since both halls consist mostly of upperclassmen.

Head explains that, “The number of RAs we have each year can vary slightly…We assess the needs of the residence halls and make decisions about RA coverage each year, making staffing changes as needed.” After talking with former RAs, Rachel Head and the Housing Committee went through the selection process with the assumption that only 2 RAs were needed for the 65 residents in Wharton CD. Head elaborates that this set-up (of one RA with 2 floors) is similar to the RA set-up in PPR.

This year, Kathryn Riley ’10 is the RA for the 1st Floor of Wharton CD and Reid Wilkening ’10 for the 2nd/3rd floors of Wharton CD. Wilkening was not aware that he would be assigned as one of the only 2 RAs for Wharton CD, but he was not uncomfortable with the situation.

Wilkening doesn’t think that the workload of dealing with two Wharton floors is significantly more than that of just one. “The structure of Wharton CD is unique in that the rooms are all singles,” he explains, “and thus fewer potential conflicts, such as roommate problems, arise.”

According to Wilkening, the needs of an upperclassmen hall are just different. “[Upperclassmen] require a different kind of attention,” he explains, “I didn’t feel that having more people who I was responsible for would impact my ability to care for all of them.”

In fact, both Riley and Wilkening had fun with deciding the hall themes for the 3rd floor. The first hall’s theme is “Famous Olympians” while the second’s is “Useless Cooking Equipment.” For the third hall, the RAs combined the two hall themes: the first half of the 3rd floor is “Olympian Chefs” (aka famous chefs) and the second half is “Useless Olympians”.

As for Strath Haven, the Housing Committee had anticipated hiring an RA for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors of Strath, but ultimately, the student was not able to serve as an RA. When the Housing committee went back to the selection pool, the remaining RA alternates were either not ideal
for the position or did not express a strong desire for the Strath Haven RA position.

This year, instead of having a traditional RA, Head herself will be serving as the
Strath Haven “dorm liaison”, and the majority of her responsibilities will consist of being available to help with the more logistical aspects of living in Strath Haven as well as providing individual and roommate support.

This unique dorm liaison set-up is somewhat of a test to determine whether the presence of an RA is actually necessary for upperclassmen halls. Head “see[s] this dorm liaison position as an opportunity to see if students still get/create the ‘community’ they need and desire without a formal RA or if students tell us that no matter their class year, having an RA is an important part of their living experience.”

While Strath Haven residents may take several weeks to get into the ease of things, they seem to be adjusting to living without an RA. Adam Chuong ’12, resident of Strath Haven 2nd, was initially apprehensive when he heard there was no RA. Coming from Alice Paul, he was hoping to have more of an active hall life in Strath and was disappointed to hear that there will be no hall functions.

Chuong believes “RAs are also really invested in making sure that residents on their hall get along and that a pretty cohesive group develops through their facilitation. So, part of my worry is that there isn’t an individual living in the building that would have the same investment that an RA would have.”

Then again, Chuong is steadily adjusting to the different type of hall life in Strath. He blocked with three other friends on the same floor and he says, “We’ve made our own effort to bring some friends over to hang out and relax a bit after classes.” Besides adjusting to the distance and isolation of Strath, Chuong seems mainly unsatisfied with the lack of a vibrant hall life, an issue that RAs can often play a major role.

Indeed, Head has a laissez-faire approach as dorm liaison. She said that she held off buying hall supplies and providing a hall theme, she hopes to get feedback and requests on what residents would like. “That way, the residents are guiding their experience, getting what they need, and I am there to help facilitate the process.”

Now, it is only a matter of communication between the hall members and dorm liaison to make this new relationship work.

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