UTA resident assistants bridge student-campus relations amid coronavirus-related regulations

Family members help students move their items into their rooms Aug. 19, 2019, at West Hall. West Hall is located near the Maverick Activities Center. 

Finance junior Prashiddha Sharma said his Arlington Hall residents’ biggest concern coming into the semester was not being able to find new friends and enjoy their time in their residence halls because of COVID-19.

Sharma shared their concerns. Along with worrying about returning to school amid a pandemic, he came into the semester hoping that his residents would be able to have a good college experience and that he would be able to connect with them while still staying safe.

Being a resident assistant now means things are slightly different from pre-pandemic semesters, but the RAs at UTA like Sharma say their duties to develop community and well-being in their residence halls ultimately remain the same.

However, there are a few major changes to residence halls this semester, namely the closure of Lipscomb Hall to residents, said Mari Duncan, director of Apartment and Residence Life, in an email.

Lipscomb has become a designated quarantine space for UTA Housing residents who do not have suitable off-campus accommodations for quarantine or self-isolation, according to a previous Shorthorn article.

For move-in day, the residence halls added additional days, student residents signed up for a scheduled move-in time and the move-in process was spread out throughout the day, Duncan said.

All RAs attended training sessions related to COVID-19 in addition to the required COVID-19 return to campus training, Duncan said.

She also said RAs are now tasked with enforcing the mask policy and occupancy limits, and residence hall community development programs are now virtual until further notice. But despite all these changes, the key goals of RAs remain the same.

“Their roles are not changing,” she said. “What is changing is how they complete them.”

Sharma said he’s still available to talk to his residents about their problems even if it means being socially distant while they talk, and he is able to help them connect with each other through virtual community engagement events.

“So far, it’s been pretty good,” he said. “The staff is really nice. The residents still seem spirited in these dire times. It’s a great sense of feeling to make the residents feel like they have a home away from home, even though they have to come to the university during a pandemic.”

He said that during move-in, he was still able to meet with his residents and establish good relationships early on.

Abreham Bekele, nursing junior and West Hall RA, said the experience of being an RA is one of the greatest things to happen to him, and he wants to continue to bridge people together even if it’s through virtual avenues.

“I have been able to meet so many people, create lifelong friendships and have wonderful leadership experience,” he said. “I do not see any of that changing in the near future. Even though we are in a pandemic, as RA’s we adapt and change with the times. I have met many people in just the past week, made new friends and am still gaining new leadership experiences.”

Mari said that RAs are consistently important to enriching the campus experience.

“We have a great staff of RAs who remain positive and committed to serving our residents and University,” she said. “We are thankful to have them on our team.”

@ByDavidSilvaR

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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