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Students share experiences of ResLife’s incident mishandling, lack of adequate support

residence life office sign
The Boston University Residence Life office. Boston University students have criticized the department for falling short of helping resolve private matters in University residences. VIVIAN MYRON/ DFP FILE

Several students have said the Residence Life office at Boston University has done a mediocre job of handling the various issues brought to their attention. 

Abbey Cho, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said her Resident Assistant in Warren Towers was rarely present when she needed her during her freshman year. 

“Our RA was never in her room,” Cho said. “One of my floormates [once] had a serious health problem, so we called the emergency line. We also knocked on our RA’s door and she was not there, so we couldn’t really do anything with the ResLife. We had to resolve it on our own.”

Cho said when others on the floor were being excessively loud, she had to deal with the situation herself. 

“There were some sort of parties and people running and screaming around at night, but sometimes it was not resolved through Reslife,” Cho said. “They were like ‘Oh we have it on file,’ but they’re just not doing anything.”

Others added they failed to receive the minimum support ResLife claims to provide. 

Serena Choi, a freshman in the College of Communication, said she knew of a student who brought up bathroom cleanliness in a floor group chat that included an RA and was met with little response — even when the messages between floormates became confrontational.

“One of the students from my friend’s floor asked others to clean up after themselves … but someone else started scolding him for being so [sensitive about] using a communal bathroom,” Choi said. “[The RA] didn’t intervene or give out warnings to them, which I thought was weird and frustrating.”

A 2020 COM graduate, who asked to remain anonymous because she did not want her family to see her story, wrote in an email to The Daily Free Press about how she experienced homophobia and harassment from her roommate. 

My freshman year at BU, I lived with a roommate who claimed to be progressive and accepting, but her attitude quickly changed when I started dating my first girlfriend,” she wrote. “She made inappropriate comments about our sex life and tried to persuade me to try ‘straight sex.’”

The graduate wrote the situation between the two worsened to the point that she felt it was life-threatening to be in her own room.

“One day, I overheard her on FaceTime with her boyfriend, saying, ‘I wish she would just kill herself already and then I could have a single,’” the graduate wrote. “[Once], she threatened my life by leaving dangerous allergens around the room and passing it off as sudden forgetfulness.”

The graduate wrote she had conversations with their RA and reached out for help that was never properly given. 

“My RA served as a mediator for a while, but because my roommate was our trusted floor rep, the RA usually took her side instead of ensuring my safety,” the graduate noted. “Because there was no official documentation of the incidents, ResLife refused to provide me with an emergency living arrangement when the harassment got so bad that I had to flee my dorm room.”

Although the graduate felt scared to sleep on friends’ floors, in the library and occasionally in booths at the GSU, she wrote that she did so because she felt these locations were “safer than returning to a dorm room where [her] existence as a gay student was constantly under attack.”

“BU knew I didn’t have a safe living space and still refused to provide one,” she wrote. “For a university that claims to support its many LGBTQ students and champion acceptance, the housing department [and the ResLife] does not reflect that mission.”

The Residence Life office did not respond to several requests for comment. 

BU spokesperson Colin Riley said the University works hard to support all its students and makes available several resources. 

We have great training for our Resident Assistants and our housing hall directors. These are professional staff members. They are very experienced in handling student issues,” Riley said. “These are the issues that Residence Life deals with and will look into to make sure that the training is up to standard.”

He added the ResLife office and RAs have additional commitments, so students living in residence halls should consider when it is appropriate to contact them. 

“Please ask [yourself] what it is, how you ought to be reporting, if there’s [concerns] you have about noise or problems with the custodial services … life threatening issues is BUPD, 911,” Riley said.

Choi said an anonymous online survey through which students can send suggestions and feedback to their RAs could improve the student-Reslife relationship.

“If those surveys are anonymous, it won’t feel like walking on eggshells,” she added.

Regardless, Cho said students would still need to keep the communication line with their RA open and active. 

“I think it’s more important for students who live in dorms to be keeping in touch with their RA,” she said, “because it’s the closest person that they can reach out to about the room [or roommate problems].”

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One Comment

  1. I’d just like to say that I found the residence/ roommate survey my son filled out was subpar. It actually wasn’t a survey at all. There were hardly any questions asked to match them up with a closer-matched roommate. Surely the computer science department can come up with a program that can take real survey replies about roommate preferences and match them up more accurately. Just a thought.