Monday, May 23, 2005

A Funny, Funny Story

Exactly one year ago, I pulled into Laramie and moved into my room over in Orr. I had interviewed and been accepted as an RA for this past school year, but for a few reasons, I had not been accepted as a summer RA for last summer. For one, summer RAs don't have any real training to speak of; summer RAs are almost by definition returning RAs and have therefore been through two weeks of official training and more importantly, they've experienced that crucial real-life training (because really, no amount of classroom lecturing can prepare you for vomit in the elevator or golf in the lobby). So while my boss for the school year was willing to take the risk of hiring me as a rookie RA, he was not willing to risk throwing me into the summer RA gig. Probably a good move, and instead I would up doing something called "conference assistant."

CAs are similar to RAs, except that they haven't had too much official training or any kind of experience (if they're new). CAs work with the various summer camps that come to the university and stay in the residence halls; when high school football, basketball or soccer camps come, CAs check the kids into their rooms and work the lobby desks. A CA desk shift comprises watching a LOT of movies and repeating the phrase "No, we don't have change here." And that's about it.

Summer RAs, meanwhile, have a bit more responsibility. We forward mail – lots and lots of mail. RAs also interact more with the summer school residents; RAs and summer students are housed on separate floors (and usually in separate halls) from summer camps for obvious reasons.

With me so far? RAs and CAs are very similar, except that RAs have to forward mail, are trained to handle crises, and have experience living and working in the halls. RAs are also required to take summer classes – with their associated tuition and book costs – and do rounds. With six of us, that's a lot of rounds and generally a lot of work.

Let's talk compensation for a minute. As a CA, I got a 9 meal plan (i.e., 9 meals per week) at the cafeteria and an hourly rate of $6. As an RA during the school year, I got an unlimited meal plan and a modest monthly stipend, with no hourly rate. As a summer RA, we get the 9 meal plan, no monthly stipend, and return to the $6 hourly rate.

Earlier this spring, when I was trying to decide between going back to the CA gig or being a summer RA, quieter desk shifts sounded better. Everything else, really, was a wash – the job's about the same; it just seemed less likely that I'd have to say the phrase "No, we don't have change here" nearly as often as I said it last summer. There were also some serious leadership/communication problems last year that made the experience quite a bit more chaotic than it needed to be. I knew the summer conferences would have a new director this year, but I didn't know what kind of manager the new person would turn out to be. Not wanting to risk another ride on that impending trainwreck, and thinking quieter desk shifts would be just fine, I chose to be a summer RA. The other five RAs and I are tight, and we were thrilled that we'd be working together this summer. "Hey," we told each other, "this RA gig isn't that bad. Let's continue to work hard and make that very special sacrifice that RAs make."

And what did we get in exchange for our naive dedication? Why, a swift kick in the tenders.

This summer, CAs get the same hourly rate as the RAs plus a 15 meal plan plus an extra $50 per month. Meanwhile, RAs get nine meals and the hourly rate, with no extra cash. Let me repeat that: CAs, who go through one tenth of the training RAs do and have been literally hired off the street, get more meals and more cash than RAs. CAs are not required to take classes and don't handle mail. RAs work harder for less money.

It's all due to CAs and RAs being under different branches in the same departmental tree, and it fucking sucks.


Blogger Nerdygirl said...


9:21 AM  
Blogger Tamara said...

ooh. too bad.

5:25 PM  

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