By LAURA SCHNEIDER
Every week this semester, students who live on campus have received emails from their resident assistant (RA) notifying them of upcoming required meetings. In the past, required hall meetings only happened at the beginning and end of the year, or if a new RA came into the hall. Now, due to the Office of Residence Life’s six week initiative, students are expected to attend weekly meetings for the first six weeks of the semester.
The program started in fall 2018 and was introduced by Hunter Rauscher, the associate director of Housing and Operations, according to John Hughey, the assistant director of Residence Life. For the first six weeks of the fall semester, RAs hold meetings with the students in their hall to discuss different topics, from community standards to upcoming events on campus.
“The most crucial time for students to connect with their community is during the first six weeks of the semester,” said Hughey. “The purpose of the program is to help provide opportunities for all of our students to connect with their community, whether they are a new student living on campus for the first time or a returning student living in a community different than their previous experience.”
However, some UMW students believe the program falls short of this goal.
“The meetings are a burden, not a help, to the residents,” said Alexis Erb, a senior psychology major.
One reason why students feel this way are because they interfere with their schedules.
“My schedule is pretty busy during the day, so the programs [don’t] really fit with my commitments,” said Glynnis Farleigh, a senior history major.
Farleigh said that when she had a time conflict with a meeting, she had to schedule a meeting with her RA at a later date.
Students have also expressed concerns about how much work the RAs have to put in for these meetings when many residents often cannot attend.
“I can’t help but imagine the burden that RAs have to put together and submit paperwork for a program each week at such a transitional time of the year, probably well aware of a low turnout,” said Farleigh.
Despite the scheduling issues, Residence Life believes that this program is still beneficial not just so students feel at home in their time at UMW, but also to help them learn skills for community building in the future.
“For all of our students, the objective is to create an environment that they can call home while they are at UMW,” said Hughey. “Beyond that, our goal is to model the creation of a community so that both RAs and residents have a reference point for what that might look like after college when they will be in charge of creating their own communities.”
One RA who wished to remain anonymous said that they and the staff in their building are working to make the meetings fulfilling for their residents.
“The staff all got together and looked at what the challenges we were facing with the program were and came up with changes, to come up with a program that we would all do together that would actually be worthwhile and something that would be fun for people to come to, but also fulfill the program elements,” they said.
While students recognize that the six week initiative’s goal of community building is important, they believe Residence Life should focus on more immediate concerns related to the residence halls.
“ResLife should really worry about the condition and safety of the buildings they put us in, not meetings that have no impact on any of us whatsoever,” said Erb.
While some agree the six week initiative is probably helpful for first-year students, the time conflicts make it too inconvenient for upperclassmen.
“I think that for the most part, programs are better suited for first-year students,” said Farleigh. “It’s hard to get even freshman to go to programs, let alone busy upperclassmen, who have their own schedules and social networks.”