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Sorin Hall loses two RAs

Meghanne Downes | Thursday, September 4, 2003

During resident assistant orientation, Sorin Hall lost half its RA staff due to conflicts the RAs had with their training schedule.

Doug Pope and BJ Craig both had academic-related commitments which would have forced them to miss part of their multiple-day orientation. Craig and Pope both said they had signed contracts that stated they were committed to attending all of the training sessions.

The University’s policy on RA training is not flexible and requires RAs to attend the entire orientation, said Bill Kirk, associate vice president for Student Affairs, and cannot be rescheduled for a previously scheduled event.

Craig said was scheduled to attend both Notre Dame’s RA orientation and the engineering-MBA program orientation. Craig was released as an RA when it became apparent that his conflict between the orientations could not be resolved and he opted to attend the MBA orientation. Notre Dame’s engineering-MBA program allows select students to receive a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years.

Pope said he learned of his conflict with RA orientation over the summer and tried repeatedly to convince officials in the Office of Student Affairs to allow him to make up the three sessions he would miss to attend a scholarship interview.

Pope’s interview was for a $25,000 scholarship to attend graduate school in either Great Britain or Ireland and was scheduled in Springfield, Ill. Pope, one of two finalists for the scholarship, tried to rearrange his interview; however, the Rotary Club said this was impossible.

Pope said Kirk informed him the morning-long training sessions he would miss would not make him a better RA, but that there was a zero tolerance policy for missing training.

Kirk maintained the orientation was necessary, saying, “RA training is critically important to serve [the dorm].”

Throughout his attempts to reschedule his training, Pope said he reiterated to Student Affairs officials his commitment to serving Sorin Hall and the University as an RA.

“I wanted to fulfill my commitment to Sorin and Notre Dame as much as I could, and I told [Kirk] that I was 100 percent committed to serving Sorin this year,” Pope said.

Pope admitted he did not directly inform Student Affairs officials of his decision to attend the interview when asked repeatedly about his intentions. Pope said officials informed him to resign if he planned to miss training.

“I did purposely opt not to tell them a direct answer because I did not want them to preemptively fire me” Pope said. “I wanted to fulfill as much of my commitment as possible and was still working not to get fired.”

Pope said he arrived for RA orientation hopeful that he could remain an RA and still attend the interview.

He said met with the presenters of the sessions he would miss, but was later informed by University officials that there was no replacement training and his personal meetings would not compensate for the training he would miss.

Pope said he met with Kirk following an orientation breakfast where he and other members of the Sorin Hall staff learned that Craig also faced a similar situation. Pope said he entered his conversation with Kirk thinking his situation may have changed, as Sorin now faced the possibility of losing two of its four RAs.

However, Pope said Kirk wanted a direct answer regarding his decision. Pope said he would attend the interview and the University would have to fire him because he believed resigning would show he was not committed to Sorin. Kirk then fired him.

Though Pope did not win the scholarship, he said he does not regret his decision. Pope moved off-campus with Craig and former Sorin resident and current student body president Pat Hallahan, saying he looks forward to the rest of his senior year – though it will be different from what he expected.

Kirk declined to comment on specific circumstances, saying only that one RA resigned and another was fired.

Kirk said situations arise every year where RAs have conflicts and have to reconsider being an RA or where RAs are replaced during the year.

Pope said the replacement RAs for Sorin – Stephen Merjavy and Steve Morrow- did not arrive until well into RA orientation.

Though Kirk denied to comment on the two replacement RAs, he did say that when RAs are replaced, depending on the situation, they will work with the existing hall staff and other arrangements are made for their training.

Hallahan said his office and Student Senate intend to research the RA incidents.

Hallahan said there were a handful of RAs who had scheduling conflicts with the orientation because of the MCAT.

He said he knew of at least one RA, who would have been a second year RA, who opted to forgo being an RA this year in order to take the MCAT.