By Marit Grootswagers
Most AUC students are familiar with the resident assistants (RAs) of the dorms. As part of the well-being team, AUC states that they play an important role in the “welfare and safety of the student community”. But few know much, if anything at all, about the people in the red sweaters touring across the dorm halls every evening. Since the pandemic students often simply associate them with being the “party police”, stemming back from the COVID-19 lockdowns when parties in the dorms were not allowed.
Muriel van der Jagt, a 2021 graduate, decided to become a resident assistant because she wanted to take a gap year and enjoy life for a while before starting her master’s degree. For that endeavour, not having to pay rent was ideal to stay in Amsterdam with its costly housing market. She recalls that during her years as an AUC student, RAs were not really regarded as the party police, but more as a support for students to talk to. She mentions that although RAs were more “chill” before COVID-19 hit, they would still shut down parties if there were too many complaints.
As the RAs are four, each RA has two shifts a week from 7 p.m. until midnight. After midnight they are still reachable over the phone but do not check the Facebook account (Carolina Macgillavrylaan) anymore.
When asked how it is to deal with drunk students, van der Jagt replies that some first-year drunk students are “sweet”, but that it can also be difficult. Sometimes she even gets a feeling that everyone hates her. “Some people don’t respect you, don’t see you as a human”, van der Jagt says. “They just don’t realize that I get called in the middle of the night and have to wake up at 8 a.m. for work the next day.”
Though the job is what she expected it to be, she is not sure if she would do it again. “I do want to leave the dorms and find a new bubble and meet other people. As a resident assistant, you’re still a little stuck at AUC”, van der Jagt says.
What makes her current job different from pre-pandemic times: People still feel the need to hide their parties, van der Jagt observed. “When we walk through the hallways we hear people screaming ‘the RA is coming, hide!’, that never happened back in my days,” she recalls. “I hope for more mutual respect – we are just doing our job.”
As the newest addition to the team, Nika Peršić started her job as a resident assistant right after she graduated in January 2022. She mentions that she views “being RA as an opportunity to be an extra helping hand in the dorms”. She adds, “If you’re feeling bummed out that I’m asking you to tone down your party, it’s really just because you have a neighbor who has trouble falling asleep.” She also mentions that “RAs are glad to see you have fun. As long as your party, picnic or whatever activity you’re partaking in isn’t harmful to yourself and others”.
When asking for a student opinion on RAs, Micol Crestina, a first-year Science major mentions that “when I see the red sweater, I am sad because I know they’re going to shut down my party”. She continues that “they’ve been students too, I’m sure they went to super cool parties as well. They also have to figure out who they are going to prioritise; that one student that wants to sleep or the hundred students trying to have a good time.”
Crestina continues that when she found out that RAs were former students she was surprised. “I see them more as some sort of teachers than former students,” she continues.
RA Stijn Maathuis, mentions that the relationship between students and RAs has changed since the start of COVID-19. As a first-year student himself, he barely saw them. This changed with the start of the pandemic. “Suddenly they were everywhere.”
When asked what his view was on RAs as a second-year student himself, he mentions that RAs were way more regarded as the party police which he could also understand. “Usually we’re fine with parties, our purpose is more that we can make sure that everyone has a chill time in the dorms, and that everyone can reach out to us,” he says. He continues that “it still is a student dorm, so it needs to be reasonable to find a balance between parties and complaints.”
“The fact that I got a free house and that I was part of the AUCSA last year motivated me to become an RA,” Maathuis continues. “I still know a lot of people here at the dorms and I study in Amsterdam, so for me I still have a small bubble within the dorms.”
A decrease in respect is not something Maathuis notices personally. “Everyone sees a resident assistant as something different, some people just come with a lot of dorm-related questions and others start to run.” Does he mind? “No, I’m not bothered by that at all,” Maathuis says.
Moving on, Maathuis hopes that the end of COVID-19 restrictions will help restore students’ trust in RAs again. “Don’t be afraid to communicate with us, we’ve studied here as well and it’s not our intention to stop people from having a good time. It is more about cooperating and being mindful of everyone,” he says.