After resident assistant Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) reported a Georgetown student in possession of ricin, whom he believed to be both willing and able to kill another student, it would have been reasonable to assume that he had gotten past the worst of a difficult situation. That assumption would be mistaken. As Lloyd revealed in a viewpoint in The Hoya last week, reporting Daniel Milzman marked the beginning of his troubles.
What followed was a university response that treated Lloyd entirely and unambiguously inappropriately. Georgetown officials exploited his status as an RA, using it to the university’s advantage when it was convenient, and disregarding it all together when it was not.
RAs face a host of obstacles that impede fair treatment and must be remedied by the university without delay.
Status as a University Employee
Ask any RAs if their jobs end when they are off duty, and the response would be a resounding no.
During training, in fact, the Office of Residential Living encourages RAs to remember that they are always RAs, a mindset that no doubt ensures the quality of campus life. But it is also a mindset that is plainly incompatible with what university legal counsel explained to Lloyd when he was told he was not guaranteed legal protection from the university because he was not Milzman’s assigned RA and it was not clear if he was acting as an RA in his conversation with Milzman.
Of course, this is inconsistent with Georgetown’s “always an RA” mantra. Even worse, Georgetown officials threatened Lloyd’s employment as an RA if he spoke to the press, citing his contract as a university employee. Evidently, Georgetown decided Lloyd was subject to the restrictions of university employment, but not the benefits.
The unacceptability of this position is self-evident. The university cannot have it both ways when it comes to deciding if RAs are entitled employee protection.
Differences in how RAs are compensated based on their financial aid statuses are another way in which RA treatment is exploitative. For regular students, when the total cost of attendance is subtracted from the amount a family can contribute, the remainder is considered demonstrated need and covered by Georgetown financial aid. When RAs apply for financial aid, room and board is not considered in the total cost of attendance, and, as such, the resulting financial aid award is, in many cases, considerably lower.
This practice is overtly discriminatory against students who receive financial aid and should be remedied immediately. Presently, students who receive financial aid must consider whether or not becoming an RA would hurt their overall economic status, a plainly undesirable reality.
These problems relating to employment status and compensation are not the only issues RAs face. Other serious concerns include safety on duty, intimidation related to limitations of speech and the workload inequality between freshman and upperclassman residences. While Lloyd’s situation exposed what is hopefully the worst of RA treatment and is deserving of immediate attention, other areas of the RA experience must also be improved upon.
It goes without saying that RAs provide an invaluable service to our undergraduate university community; their concerns should be taken seriously and remedied as soon as possible.
Christopher Wadibia, a resident assistant in Copley Hall, recused himself from voting on this editorial.