Boston University Residence Life did not require resident assistants to follow the same COVID-19 testing and quarantine guidelines as the rest of the student body when returning to campus this Spring.
Shortly before BU RAs were scheduled to come back to campus earlier this month, former RA Chad Rodriguez posted about the decision on the Class of 2021’s Facebook page.
“Residence Life is not requiring RAs to have the regular 3 negative COVID tests before their on-call assignments, or giving them time to show symptoms after air travel,” he wrote. “DON’T call the on-call phones.”
BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email the decision is backed by state guidelines.
“BU’s Medical Advisory Group permitted RAs to serve on-call after one negative test because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts required one negative test,” Riley wrote.
He added BU was going “above and beyond” by requiring two additional tests to lift the stay-in-place period, which the University required for all undergraduate students.
“RAs on-call also followed the stay-in-place quarantine requirements,” Riley wrote, “and would only have left for emergencies, meals, bathroom breaks, or medical appointments.”
However a current RA, who requested they remain anonymous, said this was not enforced.
“We were able to do move-in shifts as soon as we got back, even people who were not scheduled for on-call were scheduled for move-in shifts,” they said. “Even within a week, less than a week of getting back.”
The student said a typical move-in shift consists of welcoming new residents, handing out room keys as well as Student IDs and assisting with the general move-in process — physical contact they said is irresponsible, considering the RA testing procedure.
They added the decision was probably made because of the increase in students on campus this semester.
In an email, Rodriguez said an RA he knew was also concerned that ResLife brought RAs back from winter break a week early for training but only required one negative test result.
Rodriguez added the policy was especially concerning given the tests BU currently administers are “cheap.”
“The websites all say that one negative COVID Test is not enough to rule out infection,” he wrote.
The anonymous RA said they were asked to move in by Jan. 13, after which move-in shifts began immediately and on-call duties began a week or so later.
The student’s own first move-in shift took place less than four days after they had moved in, and before they had received three negative COVID tests. From their understanding, the testing policy was not even communicated directly to RAs, they said.
“It wasn’t really even shared what exactly it was,” they said. “If you ask other RAs and stuff, no one’s really sure.”
Ulala Kajioka, a freshman in the Questrom School of Business, said she thought the ResLife policy was “unfair.”
“While they expect everyone else to follow COVID-19 guidelines,” Kajioka said, “I don’t understand why RAs should have a loophole.”
Kajioka said the lenience with RA quarantines and testing was likely due to an understaffed move-in team.
College of General Studies freshman Kaylynn Michael said this problem could have been avoided if ResLife had asked RAs to move in and quarantine a week before anyone else.
“Honestly, it’s a little surprising that BU let that happen because from everything else that I’ve seen, they’re taking everything really seriously and being really strict about everything,” Michael said. “So I’m honestly kind of shocked.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of the article misstated that Kaylynn Michael is a sophomore. Michael is a freshman. The article has been updated to reflect this.