Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Residential Assistants Speak About Unionization Effort, Work Experiences

Georgetown University residential assistants (RAs) urged students to support their calls to unionize at an April 11 panel

RAs have been working to unionize since March 22, when a coalition of RAs known as the Georgetown Resident Assistant Coalition (GRAC) requested the university voluntarily recognize them as a union, announcing that 85 of Georgetown’s 103 RAs, approximately 83%, had signed a petition to unionize. The university denied that request on March 27, which means RAs will vote April 16 to determine whether their unionization efforts succeed with the representation of Local 153 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), a union that includes higher education workers.

The university said they would respect the results of the election. 

At the event, RAs described arbitrary firing, missed and unequal compensation and a lack of support and unfair treatment from their supervisors, known as community directors (CDs). RAs also expressed their hope for students and incoming RAs to get involved in GRAC’s efforts. 

Sam Lovell (CAS ’25), an RA in Copley Hall and organizer with GRAC, said the group wanted to unionize before the end of the semester, both to make students more aware of their experiences and to have a better chance of success.

“We were told that it would be very unlikely; it would be very difficult to get it done this semester,” Lovell said at the event. “But we recognize that we really want to get this done as soon as possible because, next year, half of all RAs will be new, and they won’t have recalled what it was like to be an RA this year or some of the problems that pervade the experience of our year.”

Nearly 400 students have signed a statement of support for the RAs unionization efforts as of April 11. 

“We knew we wanted to do it this year when the memory was fresh and when people knew why unionizing was necessary,” Lovell added. 

Nico Reyes (CAS ’24), an RA in LXR Hall, said the lack of proper compensation for RAs will pose a significant financial burden for him as he pays back student loans after graduation.

“RAs give up a significant portion of their financial aid to become RAs,” Reyes said at the event. “We give up our work-study, and I do that because there’s a slight financial net benefit. But then I saw other schools where you get the RA job and the financial aid on top of it.” 

On campus, RAs are responsible for creating programming for their residents, upholding the Code of Student Conduct and providing assistance to residents after hours, like filing emergency work orders. 

Aamir Jamil/The Hoya | The Georgetown University residential assistants (RAs) urged students to support their calls to unionize at an April 11 panel, with RAs Izzy Wagener, Aayush Murarka, Nico Reyes, and Samuel Lovell sharing their experiences.

Aayush Murarka (SFS ’26), an RA in Darnall Hall, said he and other RAs were apprehensive to begin their public campaign to unionize, fearing blowback from the Office of Residential Living, which employs RAs. 

“I think that another portion was met with some kind of hesitation or skepticism a little bit in the sense that if I put my name on this petition, if I sign these or if I get involved in any way, how is this going to come back and haunt me?’ Whether it’s within Res Living, like ‘My boss is going to see this and they’re going to retaliate,’ which I think says a lot about the culture of management within Res Living,” Murarka said at the event.

Izzy Wagener (SFS ’26), an RA in Kennedy Hall, said speaking with other RAs on campus helped encourage her to speak up about the need to unionize. 

“I was not only able to share experiences and what we had in common with our experiences but I was also able to learn a lot about things that have happened to them that I didn’t know about,” Wagener said at the event. “My advice would just be to start from a place of conversation and just start talking to people, and I think you will find that a lot of people probably share the desire to unionize.”

Wagener said she hopes more student workers unionize. 

“I know there are multiple other universities where there are campaigns to organize all student workers,” Wagener said. “But throughout this process the biggest thing I’ve taken away is that it wasn’t nearly as hard to unionize as I thought it would be.”

RAs at Boston University, Smith College and Swarthmore College unionized in the last few years. Student workers at the California State University system and Harvard University have also unionized after elections were held.

Reyes said a successful unionization effort would demonstrate to other student organizations that advocacy can make change in working conditions possible. 

“I think a lot of other groups on campus are going to be impressed with what we’re able to do to better our situation,” Reyes said. “You know I love my university, love Georgetown, but they’re not just going to hand you the best deal, the most equitable deal all the time.”

“Sometimes, it takes you linking arms with your peers to get what you deserve,” Reyes added.

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