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Re-evaluate RA orientation policies

Observer Editorial | Friday, September 5, 2003

The administration loves to promote Notre Dame as a well-rounded community that is home to ambitious and capable students who excel in academics, extracurricular activities, service and other areas.

But when Doug Pope and BJ Craig were forced to decide whether they would continue as resident assistants by choosing to either attend resident assistant training or attend other academic-related activities and lose their positions, it suggested that Notre Dame might be more committed to unwavering and unreasonable adherence to minor technicalities.

Pope and Craig claim they were released as RAs during RA orientation because they could not attend certain training sessions. Most people would consider their excuses legitimate – Pope had an interview for a post-graduate scholarship, while Craig had to participate in an MBA orientation. Other students say some RAs were given a choice between taking the MCAT and attending orientation.

But Student Affairs officials did not find these excuses legitimate. Even though Pope and Craig informed the administration about these conflicts in advance – and tried to make arrangements to avoid these conflicts or make up the missed sessions – they say they were still given an ultimatum: attend RA orientation or forget about being an RA.

If Notre Dame is an institution dedicated to preparing students for their futures, why would the administration force students to put their futures on hold? Tests and scholarship interviews are just as important as RA training sessions, especially if the information from the training can be obtained other ways.

What’s more, since RAs are leaders, chosen to guide other students, younger classes should look at Pope and Craig’s pursuit of academic achievement as an example of what to aspire for, not as a penalty to serving them in the dorm.Dismissing and replacing RAs for inconsequential reasons creates a rift in the family atmosphere the University tries to cultivate. And the RA orientation couldn’t have been as important as student life officials say it is – Pope and Craig’s replacements attended even less of the training than the two original RAs would have and had to make up the sessions they missed – an opportunity that Pope and Craig were denied.

RAs sign contracts that require them to attend all the orientation sessions, and Notre Dame has a responsibility to dorm residents to enforce the importance of attending RA training. But it shouldn’t be so unreasonable that it makes RA candidates choose between their training and their future.

The University should re-evaluate the RA training policy. If it decides to adhere to its current policy, it should explicitly inform all future applicants of the strict, unforgiving nature of this policy and also tell them of events that have been conflicts in the past – such as the summer MCAT administration – and tell them they cannot participate in these activities. Better yet, the administration should allow students to complete these capstone events and make-up the RA training they miss.