By Jess Morgan
Over the past two terms, I have had the privilege of being a Residence Life Advisor [RLA] in Ormsby Hall and Brokaw Hall. During that time, I have been surprised by how much I have grown and enjoyed my current role.
It has also surprised me how frequently I hear that RLAs should be offered greater compensation for their work. Talking with other students, I feel as though I hold the minority opinion that the pay is appropriate. While I understand some of the reasons that this issue is brought up, I think the amount an RLA makes in a year is very fair.
The comment that I hear the most is that RLAs should be given free room and board. After all, there are other schools that provide that compensation in place of money. However, the pay increase that free room and board entails is a bit extreme.
Currently, first year RLAs earn $1621 plus a single at a double-room rate. The total cost of room and board for the 2015-2016 academic school year is $9210, or $9921 for a single, translating to a difference of $711 between single and double rooms. The proposal that RLAs should receive free room and board is arguing for a pay increase of over four times the current pay rate.
If RLAs did receive the dollar amount that comes with the compensation for free room and board, the breakdown of hours per week would be more than the average full-time job. If an RLA was putting in a minimum commitment of about 5 hours per week, at pay of $9921 over the course of the school year, that RLA would receive a salary of $66 per hour. Even if they were going above and beyond with programming and were putting in close to 10 hours each week, $33 per hour is still incredibly high.
Sure, being an RLA is kind of a 24/7 job. A student could come to you at any point with an issue that needs to be resolved. You’re always a visible leader on campus, which comes with its own responsibilities. But it would be absurd for RLAs to be paid for every hour they spent awake and functioning, or to be paid in such a large amount per hour.
The amount of responsibilities that an RLA has during any given week varies. The minimum work during a week is one and a half hours spent in staff meetings and three to four hours spent on duty at the desk. Sure, there are other tasks that will take time, such as briefly meeting with the Residence Hall Director bi-weekly, going to required events on campus that relate to the role, assisting students, creating a positive community on your floor and creating materials such as door decorations.
Despite these responsibilities that come up throughout the term, there are benefits to having a salary that compensates for 5 hours of work per week.
A full-time Lawrence student can only be on the payroll for 20 hours a week. Having fewer hours on paper each week is actually incredibly beneficial to RLAs who are interested in working other campus jobs. If you desire, for example, to work in the library, become an editor for The Lawrentian or work as a tutor in the CTL, the fewer hours allow you the flexibility to gain those experiences without sacrificing your role as an RLA.
In addition, providing free room and board would cause students to apply for the wrong reasons. Given the cost of attending Lawrence, nearly everyone would want to be an RLA if free room and board were provided. It would be a shame to see positions go to students that are applying for the financial rather than the communal benefits.
From my observations, those who have received the position as an RLA genuinely care about people and our university and enjoy the tasks involved with the job. The current pay for the role helps to maintain the enthusiasm and integrity of the role.
Being an RLA is one of the best jobs on campus. What other jobs revolve around learning more about the talented students at Lawrence, spending hall funds to put on cool programs, getting to know campus resources like the back of your hand and learning how to positively impact issues within the community?
The current flexibility of time is one of the greatest aspects about the job. Depending on what you personally value, you can spend your time with that type of program, raise awareness for a particular issue or gather students to work on a project oriented around a specific interest.
In the grand scheme of things, RLAs are not paid a lot, but the experiences gained are invaluable and allow for so much personal growth. Regardless of the aspects of the job that motivated RLAs to apply, there is no doubt that it provides skills applicable to all aspects of life or future jobs.
What better way is there to learn how to work with a group of people and market your people skills to future employers than with a job that resolves around working with people and being a leader?
If you have an interest in becoming an RLA, and have attended one of the information sessions over the past week, I highly encourage you to apply. While the compensation may not be as high as desired, there is so much to be gained from the role.