The walk into Constitution Hall, at American University, after winter break was eerie. A sea of moving carts to the left and an empty desk to the right. A quick trip up the elevator proved that not only were desks empty, but some RA dorms were empty too. Why do our buildings have no desk receptionists? Where are our resident assistants?
Sophomore, Elizabeth Municchi, shared her thoughts and concerns about the lack of staff in Constitution Hall with me.
“I was really surprised that there was no one at the desk. AU’s emails made it sound like we would have to check in with someone,” she said, “ I spoke with some of my friends who said either ‘Yeah we have a DR,’ or ‘We don’t have a DR, ’ so I was confused as to if somebody was supposed to be here.”
A sign posted on the desk said “The Constitution hall reception desk is closed from Friday, Dec 17 at 5pm through Sun, Jan 9 at 9am,” giving the impression that the desk would open on the 10th, which has not been the case.
Many issues surrounding the lack of desk receptionists and RA’s surround worries about health and safety.
“I’m a little worried about emergencies because we haven’t done too many fire drills or really anything,” and, “There should be someone in case of an emergency who is more accessible, I don’t know where the community director lives.”
According to multiple sources, including an East Campus RA who was not on campus for students’ return, community directors are on campus and doing rounds.
The RA said, “I believe they have community directors doing rounds, they’re on campus and can step in but it’s definitely a lessened capacity to the school year where we do rounds three times a night every day of the week.”
Only nine of 27 residents in the hall knew where they could find their community director and one even asked, “What’s a community director?” in a poll conducted through Groupme.
With no desk receptionist it is extremely easy to enter buildings. The unnamed East Campus RA said, “It really is kind of scary thinking that random strangers could come in.” She had also worked at a front desk last semester recalling, “I remember seeing some 30 year old man for a tinder date and I was like, you’re not going upstairs to hang out with some 18 or 19 year old girl.” The concerns of who is getting in the building is one for staff and students alike.
Along with health and safety issues, the lack of supervision has led to chaos in many residents’ halls.
In constitution hall, multiple pieces of furniture were removed from lounges and placed in elevators. A simple act of restlessness, but one that is alarming.
An East Campus RA said, “It sounds like people are really restless, I totally get it that people are getting stir crazy,” but, “Once the couch got put in there I was just worried because if someone had a wheelchair and needed to get in their room they couldn’t fit in the elevator.”
Constitution Hall is not the only building where chaos is ensuing.
“It seems like everyones kind of has free reign,” the RA stated.
So, why do some buildings not have RA’s and Desk Receptionists? When these concerns were brought to Housing and Residence Life and an interview was requested, but not fulfilled, they responded saying, “We have adjusted our desk operations because a percentage of students have delayed their return. This delayed return has also impacted our ability to staff all residential desks.”
They also noted that “All residential desks will be in full operations Jan 31. All Resident Assistants have returned to campus and will resume all job responsibilities effective today, Jan 27.”
The East Campus RA also disclosed, “Technically we aren’t even RA’s right now,” and “I think all of the RA’s were kind of raising their eyebrows at the fact that students were sent back to campus but there was no RA presence required.”
She said, “I can’t enforce much from home but I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or unsafe so it’s been really weird balancing that.”
Municchi’s words sum up this situation best, “We’re seeing a lot of unpreparedness around a lot of things on campus.”