by Rose Brennan, A&E Editor
The role of a resident assistant (RA) is one of the most sought-after positions at Manhattan College. In addition to the chance to become a student leader, the position is also compensated through free room and board. Now, the coveted position is opening up to more potential applicants.
The Office of Residence Life recently announced that the RA hiring process for the 2020-2021 academic year would be opened to rising sophomores. Previously, the position was restricted to rising juniors and seniors.
Charles Clency, director of Residence Life, had the idea of opening the position to rising sophomores since he was hired to his position.
“It was always my intent to basically expand [the process] to sophomores. I would have done it last year, but I actually wanted to see what it looked like in terms of [what] are common practices,” he said. “In this case, I will tell you … there’s very few campuses around that I’m aware of that only [allow] RA position to be occupied by juniors and seniors. But, then again, that was a Manhattan College thing, historically, here, and I wanted to see … the success rate before I [went] changing it: what the applicant pool would be like and how competitive it would be.”
There were three main reasons why Clency planned to open the position to rising sophomores. The first of these reasons was to make the RA position more competitive.
“It’s really designed for anybody who has a desire to give back and make it part of their academic experience. And so we’re looking for people who are enthusiastic about being peer mentors, and … more than anything else, I wholeheartedly believe peer mentors can be anyone who’s served and been in this institution, or any institution, to be honest with you, for a year or more,” Clency said.
The second item on the agenda was to address the pending residency requirement program, which will go into effect next academic year and will require all students not living within a certain radius of the college to live on campus for their first two years as a student.
“It’s kind of unfair to … tell students that they must live on campus but not give them an opportunity to take on a leadership role in the department as well. So expanding this opportunity for them to apply and compete makes all the sense in the world to me,” Clency said.
Finally, Clency believes that opening the application to rising sophomores will present the best opportunity to hire the finest potential employees the college has to offer.
“We want the best, so some of the opportunities for people to be an RA over the years, having only two shots in order to have that happen has probably served as a disadvantage for some people who’ve never really got the opportunity to become an RA, but having three opportunities in their tenure here … heightens the probability for them to have the opportunity to get … chosen for the position,” he said.
Opening the application to rising sophomores will undoubtedly make the process more competitive, allowing students who apply to vie for one of 50 potential positions. Furthermore, Clency anticipates there will be a number of current RAs who will return for another year of employment, making the process even more competitive, especially for rising sophomores.
“We are expecting, and we will continue to expect, to have returner RAs come back to us. So it’s going to be more competitive at the end of the day, and although you can apply, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the job. It just means that they have the opportunity for the position, just like any junior or senior would,” Clency said.
Freshman Luis Chavez is one of several students planning to apply to the RA position. As a commuter student, both the potential to become a student leader and the free room and board are appealing to him.
“When I started my semester, I was searching [for] ways to be able to dorm so I could get the most out of Manhattan College, especially since I was starting to spend a lot of time in extracurricular activities here,” Chavez said in a written statement to The Quadrangle. “As soon as I found out about the position, I started asking questions to faculty and doing research about the position.”
The idea of becoming more involved in campus life and serving as a student leader are both important to Chavez, and were reasons why he wanted to apply for the RA position.
“I love this college and want to try and be a part of it as much as possible,” Chavez said. “I felt the best way would [be] to dorm here. It is my goal to be in a position where I can help people from all walks of life here.”
While Chavez is excited about beginning the RA application process, the decision to start hiring rising sophomores has not been without criticism. Timothy Hamling ‘18, an alumnus of MC, served as an RA in Horan Hall for one year during his senior year. He questioned some aspects of the new process.
“I’ve definitely heard about other colleges that have sophomore RAs on staff,” Hamling said in an e-mail statement to The Quadrangle. “But I’m not sure how well it’d work at MC. Aside from [Chrysostom Hall], all of the dorm halls consist of residents from different grades. Would seniors be willing to listen to a sophomore RA? Does a sophomore have enough life experience to understand what juniors and seniors might be going through, and be able to meet those needs?”
Clency said that the idea of a sophomore RA in an upperclassman dorm like Overlook Manor could be possible. However, he had a different way of viewing the situation than Hamling.
“It makes sense that you would get someone who’s a junior or senior, but that’s not absolutely guaranteed,” he said. “Again, what we find in my research and practices is that upperclassmen typically are less demanding. They know the campus. So do we necessarily have to have a junior or senior to serve them? I don’t think so. I do know those who we hired in those communities might have some preferences to have a junior or senior in a place like [Overlook Manor]. I don’t control that. I let my staff kind of choose who their staff is going to be.”
Hamling also had concerns about the time-consuming nature of the RA position, and whether sophomores would be able to handle it in addition to their course workload.
“Though senior year classes certainly are more time-consuming than sophomore year classes, I think that a senior has much better time management and planning skills than a sophomore would,” Hamling said. “The RA position is basically 24-hours, and personally I can’t imagine taking on that responsibility as a sophomore. However … everyone’s different, so I’m sure there might be a few sophomores that could excel at the position, and those are the kinds of people that would hopefully be hired.”
In addition to the widening of the applicant pool, the RA hiring process also began much earlier than usual in the academic year. According to Clency, this was done with the potential rising sophomore applicants in mind, as they likely have less campus references than upperclassmen, and can ask people at home for the references required for the application.
“We kind of expanded … to give people ample enough time to really consider going to the information sessions, asking questions of our current RAs about the position so they are as well-informed as possible before applying,” Clency said. “But also, with those rising sophomores, it allows them to go home to wherever they’re from and ask a previous employer back home, maybe the pastor of their church, someone who knows them on a working level … that can speak to their character and that can serve as a reference.”
The RA application will be open until Friday, Jan. 24 at 4 p.m.
Further information on the impending residency requirement policy will be covered in the next issue of The Quadrangle, which will be released on Tuesday, Dec. 3.