Approximately 60 upperclassmen arrived three weeks early to campus this year; however, they weren’t taking a summer block. These students were future resident advisors.
RAs are the first line of defense in the dorms. Most student physical health problems, mental health concerns, drug and alcohol abuse concerns, and resource connections go through RAs before anyone else knows about them. For these reasons, RA training is incredibly important.
In response to the anti-black and transphobic email sent to many members of the Colorado College community, the CC Black Student Union released a set of demands; included in these demands was the need for more racially sensitive training and racial bias training. This year, CC worked to include this demand in RA training.
The RA training program is broken up into two weeks: a technical week and an abstract week. Week one is the technical week. The aim of the technical week is to build strong relationships between RAs before tackling the more demanding aspects of the job and to ensure that the nuts-and-bolts of the job are mastered while the energy is still high.
Danny Corrigan, an RA in Bemis, found the training to be very thorough. “Not only did they talk about policies and practices, but they also gave tips about learning while being a resident yourself,” said Corrigan.
Week two featured abstract training, including sessions with the Butler Center, The Chaplain’s office, and The Center for Global Educations and Field Study. Situating these sessions at the end of training was questioned by some RAs.
Lily Tejada, an RA in Loomis Hall, explained her take on week two: “Toward the end we all got really pooped and tired, and it was really hard to focus, which kind of sucks because that’s when we talked about accessibility resources and had the talk with Heather Horton and those were really important” said Tejada. “For those to be at the end was kind of not productive.”
Bethany Grubbs, the assistant director of residential life, is open to changing the program when students come to her with constructive solutions. At the end of every session, each RA in training filled out a feedback form.
“It is hard for people in the relational parts of higher-ed to not be passionate about social justice. That’s why we are here,” said Grubbs. “Residential life training is a living program with an aspirational mission. Every year training changes based on these and other factors.”
For many RAs, the most impactful day was called Behind Closed Doors. Returners acted as struggling students and new RAs had to put their training to the test. This year, a racial bias complaint was added to the section. When the RA in training knocked on the door, they were confronted by students who felt targeted for their racial identities. It was an opportunity for RAs, particularly white RAs, to practice proper allyship.
Anthony Rodriguez, a returning RA in Loomis for his second year, summarized training well; “Training is just to prepare you for whatever hell you need to go through,” said Rodriguez. “Going through that hell is what teaches you to be a good RA.”