Ever notice how the men we lust after the most are usually those who are the least available? Guys in relationships, guys who live on the other side of the country, that adorable resident advisor down the hall, your sweet, brilliant, and nerdy-hot history TA… Well, two of these categories of unavailability are not like the others. Sure he's single, close to your age, and oh-so-adorable, but many schools have serious RA relationship restrictions that, no matter how big of a crush you have on the guy, may not be worth testing. And while I know that many of you ladies may be frustrated by the lack of professional, career-oriented men around campus, the same guidelines apply for teaching assistants.
College has enough awkward moments already, which is why I think you should be armed with the temptation-resisting skills to avoid the sticky situations of these off-limits relations... or at least know what you're getting yourself into.
RA Should Stand For Relationship to Avoid
The policies at each university vary, but I got the 411 on the way it works at Syracuse. At their simplest, the rules state that an RA cannot date a student on his or her floor OR in the same building. The only way to get around this is by going to the resident director, the person above the RAs, and arguing your case.
Danielle Sutton, president of Syracuse University's residence hall association, did just that. She had been dating a student in her hall for five years prior to becoming an RA and quickly learned the benefit of being open with her boss. Since it was clear that their relationship was more than a half-semester fling, the risk seemed much smaller.
Generally, though, the school is super-strict about this. Each RA is required to keep a journal of each interaction with residents living on his or her floor, essentially taking a huge chunk of privacy out of their living experience.
“It's definitely not worth the risk,” says Sutton. At Syracuse, an RA is automatically granted a $12,000 scholarship, which is forfeited if he or she loses the position. “Usually if you have a crush on somebody, it won't even last the semester,” she says. “You should only put yourselves in that situation if you see lasting power.”
As a freshman at Roanoke College, Susanna Bonig dated the RA for her entire residence hall. Unlike Sutton, Bonig says that her relationship, which lasted almost a full year, was totally worth the occasional challenges. While her school has no written policy on these relationships, the students are well-informed that an RA should not date another RA or a resident, creating a situation where an entire building of people was technically off-limits.
For those of you who are attracted to people who have power over an entire floor of students, Bonig provided a heads-up on what you should expect. “We couldn't go out whenever we wanted because he had RA meetings or was on duty,” she says. “I didn't tell him about any drinking that I did with my roommate in my dorm room because I didn't want to put him in an awkward position.” Having the other residents find out (which they did) wasn't on the list of top concerns for the couple. Bonig suggests looking into the specific policy at your school before pursuing anything. Regardless of your decision, it's best to be discrete for everyone's sake.
The reality is, it's virtually impossible to control who you're attracted to. So, with the confidence that you'll make the right decision, here are some final cautionary tidbits to keep in mind:
- RAs can have a huge impact on your living experience, whether they’re writing you up for health and safety violations or advocating for your crappy living situation. If things go sour between you and your super-lenient RA, do you really want to test his reputation for letting things slide?
- It's college. People talk. Reputations get ruined in seconds, and jealousy can run rampant in the residence halls. What sounds better? A fling with the RA down the hall or the respect of your floor-mates and a well-preserved rep?
- If there's really a connection between the two of you, put that theory to the test and wait until next year when you no longer live on the same floor. Even the most functional relationships can benefit from a little distance now and then. That said, I'd advise against dating anyone on your floor. My sophomore year roommate tried dorm-cest once, and the guy turned out to be a bit of a psycho — let’s just say we left our floor for a reason.