The Residence Life Program has provided a wide variety of experiences for students—for some, the experience was not always pleasant. Because most students are required to live in the on-campus dormitories their first two years at Meredith, the Residence Life Program influences the experiences of almost all students in some way, especially those who serve as student workers for Residence Life as Resident Assistants (RAs) and Community Assistants (CAs).
One Stringfield RA, Kara Browning, ‘24, has found her Residence Director (RD) Sam DiStefano to be quite supportive of her in her role as an RA. Browning often takes care of minor issues students face, such as facilitating conversations to resolve relational issues or removing the occasional bug. However, RA’s cannot really do much to resolve facility issues outside of helping students submit maintenance requests. Her hall, the fourth floor of Stringfield, has had issues with the air conditioning unit leaking onto residents’ floors. Browning said, “After multiple maintenance request forms, the issue continues to sporadically occur . . . I sadly can't fix [it] myself, but I help where I can [by] providing towels and buckets.” Issues like these are out of the RA’s hands, but they still manage the responsibility of helping however they can.
Ricaria Miller, ‘22, was an RA in Poteat her junior year and a CA her senior year. During her time as an RA, she found the Residence Life staff to be supportive of her in her role, but there were other challenges she faced while working as an RA. Miller explained that one challenge of being an RA was “establish[ing] boundaries with the residents.” She further said, “It can also be challenging to learn to distinguish between [when to be] friendly and stern.” Because Miller was very busy with her classes, dance and RA responsibilities like planning floor activities, curating bulletin boards and doing rounds, she found it hard to participate in many other extracurriculars. “Personally, I found it challenging to balance having other interests that required a lot of time because being a RA took priority over everything else,” she said.
During the pandemic, Miller became especially concerned for her residents, many of whom were homesick and unable to fully experience Meredith due to COVID-19. To help, Miller recounted that she “gathered some ideas and suggestions from the residents and utilized them to create a welcoming, secure environment” to boost their spirits. Miller also helped facilitate conflict resolution between residents, and she explained that the role of the RD in those situations usually only involved reporting the incident—the RD is not usually present for conciliatory conversations between students if the RA is capable of facilitating.
Jeanine Carryl, ‘22, was a CA in the Oaks Apartments during her senior year and an RA her sophomore and junior years. As a CA, her typical duties included “doing rounds, holding the duty phone, [hosting] desk socials, building socials, and handling any emergencies that may arise.” Her experiences with Residence Life staff often varied from person to person. “I feel like it depended on the individual and how they wanted to advocate for students or just stick to the social norms of Meredith,” she explained. When Carryl became an RA, she was hoping to improve the experience of other RAs and her residents, but her RA at the time of her acceptance into the job “told [her] not to get [her] hopes up.” Carryl tried anyway: “I tried to advocate for the rights of RAs/CAs, but near the end of my Meredith journey I had to take a step back,” she said. Carryl said that the effort she exerted to ensure a positive experience for herself and others was draining. She said, “CAs/RAs are students before anything and should be valued as such.”
There is no current Director of Residence Life since Carrie Barnhart left the position. Barnhart now works at North Carolina State University, her alma mater, in a position that “served as an opportunity for [her] to progress in [her] career.” Regarding her time at Meredith, Barnhart said, “I greatly enjoyed my time there. Each staff member I worked with daily was committed to the student experience and creating a positive work environment.”
Carryl said, "CAs/RAs are students before anything and should be valued as such." RAs and CAs are expected to work hard to improve the experience of their residents at the cost of their own ability to participate in many of the extracurriculars available to them.
By Cady Stanley, Arts and Entertainment Editor