Life at Lawrence: A CA PSA for the MIA resident

After two years in the position, I am still a CA (formerly RLA) here at Lawrence, even in my senior year. Most of the time, rising seniors will choose to drop the position for the quad they planned for the past year, to make more time for their capstone or for some other valid reason, but I stuck around for one more round. And as someone who is going on his third year of being a CA, let me tell you about That Resident. That Resident makes it very clear from day one that they want absolutely nothing to do with you. Popular methods for establishing this disinterest include pointedly not making eye contact, removing door decs (which take a long time to make, by the way) and making any interaction with their CA as short as possible. This article is dedicated to That Resident.

I am here to tell you a secret — the painful awkwardness of the aforementioned behaviors and more like them can all be avoided! How? Wave back to your CA when they wave at you! Leave their door dec up! Entertain a short conversation about classes! Although perhaps a radical thought, having a nice relationship with your CA can be helpful, or even just, well, nice! In the end, you do not need to become your CA’s best friend or tell them your deepest, darkest secrets, but showing some kindness and knowing what they can do for you does a lot for everyone.

However, one might ask, “What kind of a relationship is predicated on a job about forming such relationships?” After all, it is no secret that the CA position is indeed a paid position, and part of the job is getting to know one’s residents. This, to me, follows a similar logic to the question of realness in talking to a counselor. Many times when I have talked to people about seeing a counselor, they respond with a variation of “it seems so artificial to me,” “they get paid to talk to me” or “they don’t really care about me, I am just a part of their job.” 

To this line of reasoning, I have one response: no one does a job about helping others without wanting to help others. Thinking of counselors, if one has the psychology credentials to be a therapist, one also has the credentials to do plenty of other things in the field of psychology. Likewise, if one has the organizational and creative skills to be a CA, one also has the skills to do plenty of other campus jobs. However, if one has good social skills and a generally benevolent attitude, such a person will be far more likely to choose a position that harnesses those abilities than someone who does not have those abilities or does not like working with people. Thus, you will find that nearly every CA wants to be kind to you and help you because that is truly the kind of person they are, and the CA position develops and rewards that behavior.

Another oft-cited reason for not engaging with CAs is that they are simply “not needed,” and the given resident is doing just fine without them. This is not uncommon, particularly from upperclassmen who are already in their own social circles, and I will not claim to not see where they are coming from. CAs definitely do a lot of work connecting freshmen to resources and various groups or just making them feel welcome in their residence hall, while upperclassmen seldom have such needs. And so, I would agree, sometimes there are residents who do not need CAs, but that does not mean that they cannot benefit from them anyway. The fact is, CAs want to be a friendly face and want to put on programs that can teach you something or give you a break from academia, so even if you find yourself not in need of this, why not take advantage of it anyway? What is the harm in going to a program and meeting some new people or learning a new skill? Maybe in the end it will not be enlightening, but a nice distraction from the hustle and bustle of things never hurts.

The moral of the story is that if you want your residence hall to be your quiet space, that is fine! If you do not need anything from your CAs, that is fine! But if there is one thing you can do, just be friendly. We know that not everyone is going to come to our programs or have 30-minute conversations about Mark Burstein’s dog (his name is Homer and he is a Good Boy) in their spare time, but if you can show us that you are doing well and understand where we are coming from, we respect that and appreciate it. Oh, and please do not knock on our doors at obscenely early/late times for the vacuum. Save that for duty hours, friends.