Campus, Coronavirus, News

Freshmen look to RAs for sense of community

More freshmen looking to form social connections during the pandemic are turning to Residence Assistants for help. VIVIAN MYRON/ DFP FILE

In a time when social gatherings are more often held online than in person, Boston University freshmen are asking Residence Life for increased opportunities to connect with each other, starting with outreach from Residence Assistants. 

Faisal Ahmed, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said while he acknowledges Resident Assistants’ jobs have become complicated amid the pandemic, it is their commitment to students to promote sociality.

“I don’t really see that as an excuse,” Ahmed said. “It just means that things have to be different, not that things have to stop.” 

Ahmed added that he sees potential for socially distanced, in-person events.

“We could get a classroom projector or something on the BU Beach and mark off every six feet for a household and people could watch movies together,” Ahmed said. “[This] could happen and I don’t know why they haven’t.” 

Garrett Adamtsev, a freshman in the College of Communication, wrote in an email he wishes ResLife would provide more opportunities for connections between floors.

 “I think one thing ResLife could do is organize events with other floors so that we are able to get to know more people in the building,” Adamtsev wrote. “It would still be a good time for all involved if properly socially-distanced and in an appropriate setting.”

Nyah Boyd, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said while she ran into some issues during move-in, her first interaction with ResLife was positive.

“ResLife knew what they were doing,” Boyd said. “Everybody else did not.”

She added that her first meeting with her RA went well.

“[My RA] did really well laying out the ground rules and explaining how things have changed with this coming semester,” Boyd said. “[He] made us feel like we had somebody to come talk to if we needed help with anything.”

Residence Assistant Christian Paredes, a junior in the CAS, said ResLife has been working to make events possible during this time.

“We’ve been trying to do other things like going door to door, talking to people, making ourselves available at a certain time every week,” Paredes said. “I’ve definitely done that even though people haven’t come. But I have an open hour where people can drop in if they want.”

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said though students must now find more unique ways to form connections, the University acknowledges people still have a drive to make connections. 

“While the modality of how we engage each other might have changed,” Elmore said, “RAs are still these people we want you to connect with and we want to help you connect with the University and the city.”

Paredes said ResLife is also planning Halloween events, but is still in an adjustment period. Traditional gathering opportunities like community conversations and walks on the BU Beach, which would normally attract a crowd, are now Zoom-based or unmanageable.

“We’ve been caught off guard by how hard it is to do stuff,” Paredes said, “[and] the lack of resources that we’ve been provided by ResLife to do a lot of events, because a lot of what we’re required to do is based on requirements that are for non-COVID times, and they really didn’t modify that for us being in COVID times.”

Paredes said he is optimistic about ResLife’s plans for future semesters, however.

“I am sure next year, even next semester, they will have a lot more to say on everything. I know everything happened so fast,” Paredes said. “Even though it seems like we had six months to prepare from when COVID started, everything got so sidetracked.”

Elmore said he encourages students to be social in person if it is safe.

“Knock on someone’s door, including your RA’s door, have that conversation,” Elmore said. “You’re still allowed to interact with each other.”

2 Comments

  1. Alessandra of BU Parents United

    I am not sure where the mind block is with Dean Elmore but what are RAs for? Only to write up students as some have said quietly to us? Or can’t they get support and then retraining so they know how to reach out to students who may feel shy or isolated or NEW?! and plan at least one safe social activity per floor per week ! The mental well-being is critical for everyone during this pandemic which is about to get worse. Please Dean Elmore stop expecting terriers to do all the initiating when feeling alone. Speak with some mental health professionals like Dr.Lipson at BUSPH if you don’t understand how the mind works with students who are new to campus and feeling isolated, trying to follow all the rules and stay safe too! Open your mind Dean Elmore please because the excuses are not worth a tragedy later because you expected everyone to contact YOU or others and never the other direction. If you won’t listen to this counselor, seek some of your own BU mental health experts and hear them because many freshmen and transfers are HURTING.

  2. ELLEN KELLEY

    It would be really great if some of the smaller dorms(Bay State and South) could be placed in a cohort with a larger dorm near them that has a communal space. If students in larger dorms can socialize between many floors, this seems possible. RA’s should be checking in with their students periodically-this should be a given, especially during these times!

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