The Office of Residential Life has increased the diversity of its residential assistants for the upcoming academic year, as 52 percent will be AHANA+, in comparison to 44 percent this year, according to Mike Lorenz, ResLife’s associate director for selection, development, and formation. Additionally, 42 percent of new RAs identified as male, and 58 percent as female.
RAs play an important role in facilitating tough conversations around issues of diversity and inclusivity in on-campus residence halls, according to Lorenz. As such, it’s important that the staff is representative of the student body.
“It’s a big passion of mine to make sure we represent our student body within our staff,” Lorenz said. “It’s a big deal.”
To incentivize students of diverse backgrounds to apply to the RA position, ResLife streamlined the application process and updated its RA contracts to reflect the values of inclusivity and safety, which are demonstrated through its mission statement. When ResLife interviews potential RAs, it asks how they would represent and support students from underrepresented populations in an effort to assist them.
While the Office of Residential Life isn’t legally allowed to record answers regarding candidates’ sexual orientation, economic background, and religious preferences, it aims to embrace all forms of inclusivity. Questions on race, ethnicity, and gender identity are optional for candidates to respond to.
Notably in the wake of multiple racist incidents and the subsequent Silence is Still Violence march last fall, ResLife became incentivized to facilitate conversations on difficult issues, hosted floor meetings, and led outreach initiatives to the impacted students, according to Lorenz.
“We constantly have to adapt to different people’s needs,” Lorenz said. “It’s hard because what works with one person may not work with another. But we’re trying to do the right thing and support people where they need it.”
While it’s nearly impossible to predict when a bias-related incident may occur, Lorenz believes ResLife should issue an adequate response to these occurrences. The office attempts to address and respect intersectionality. Through its efforts, it believes it can impact its “sphere of influence,” opening the minds of students in residence halls to new ways of thinking about diversity and inclusivity.
“The more that our student leaders are aware, the more that our professional staff are aware, we’re hoping that the campus culture can slowly be changed,” Lorenz said.
Featured Image by Katie Genirs / Heights Editor