*THIS ARTICLE WAS SUBMITTED BY AN ANONYMOUS RESIDENT ADVISOR AT SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY.*
Imagine this: you’re a 19-year-old sophomore, training for your first year as a Residential Advisor (RA). It’s your first day, and you’re given a flip book with general protocol about how to respond to certain situations. The pamphlet includes the things you think RAs would typically handle: alcohol, incident reports, broken elevators and roommate conflicts. The last page of the flip book gives you the protocol for how to respond to a student death. You skim this page, because you think, “Not here, not in my building, not to me.”
And for a time it’s just as you imagined. The job is sometimes hard, sometimes easy, but always rewarding. You get used to the desk shifts, the key audits, chatting with residents and sending reminders in the GroupMe. Until the thing you never thought could happen, happens. It happens here. It happens in your building.
It happens, but did anyone notice? Mandatory attendance, homework and work all continue. And you even maybe start to think you’re okay.
Until 2 weeks later you get a call from another RA telling you they need you, stressing its urgency. Three weeks ago, the first thought in your mind would have been, “I wonder what I’m needed for.” Today, your first thought was, “Has there been another student death?”
You wonder how long it will take for you to feel safe, for you to feel like people around you don’t keep dying. Until you can say “I’m okay” instead of “I’m okay enough.”
The reality of this position is that we are no different than the other 13,000 students on SLU’s campus—not in the way that matters. No amount of training prepares anyone for what we could see on a given night. We are just students. Students with one more flip book and one more month of training than most.
I stand with all students at SLU as we attempt to navigate so much loss and grief all at once. Everything we feel is valid, and we have a right to use our voice to force change in the way we feel is needed. As students we have power, and we have the right to be heard. Let’s continue to hold this institution accountable to work for students. Continue to speak for change and stand with everyone who’s a part of our community.
To my fellow RAs: know that the entire world does not rest on your shoulders. Give yourself some grace. You cannot be there for your residents if you are not there for yourself first. Be kind to yourself—we’re all just doing the best we can.