Jessica Dellaquila, a Boston University alumna planning to return this fall as a graduate student in the School of Education, wants to bring attention to Residence Life’s demands on their student employees after she was not allowed to be a Graduate Resident Assistant due to an academic conflict.
One of Dellaquila’s required classes for her program conflicts with the mandatory weekly meeting for GRAs that takes place on Wednesday nights. Dellaquila said that while exceptions have been made for students in the past, she was told that an exception would not be made for her.
Dellaquila was a Resident Assistant as an undergraduate in the College of Arts of Sciences, but this would have been her first semester as a GRA.
She said that when she asked her former Residence Life supervisor for a recommendation letter for her graduate school application, her supervisor proposed that she become a GRA. While Dellaquila said she knew the offer was unofficial, the potential for free housing greatly influenced her decision to apply to BU for graduate school.
Many students apply for positions with Residence Life for the financial benefits, Dellaquila said, which include direct payment and free housing.
“I have a scholarship that doesn’t cover all of my tuition, so I have about a third of my tuition to pay,” Dellaquila said. “And I had counted on having free housing because I also have undergraduate loans.”
Dellaquila applied to be a GRA in February and was accepted in April. When she registered for her fall semester classes, she said she discovered that one of her most important classes for her program is offered only on Wednesday nights, meaning she would not be able to attend the Residence Life meetings.
At this point, she said, she informed Residence Life about the conflict and offered a list of alternative ways she could fulfill this expectation of a GRA.
Residence Life’s response, she said, was that since it was her first time as a GRA, an exception could not be made, and she would not be able to serve as a GRA next year, despite her multiple semesters of experience as an undergraduate RA.
“Basically, they took away my free housing because of a technicality,” Dellaquila said.
She said she is concerned that she will no longer be able to afford her graduate program, since she had been expecting to have the free housing provided to GRAs when she applied.
Residence Life supposedly told her she should have been aware of her class schedule when she applied, Dellaquila said. When she questioned how she was supposed to know her class schedule seven months in advance, she said she was told that Residence Life had to “draw a line in the sand” regarding their ability to make exceptions.
Both Residence Life and Financial Assistance declined to comment, instead directing The Daily Free Press to BU spokesman Colin Riley.
Resident Assistants are expected to fulfill their position requirements, Riley said, which include attending the mandatory Wednesday night meetings. While BU works to accommodate students’ class schedules, it is not always possible.
“Particularly in fall semester, because people are newly in those positions, it’s important [that they attend the meetings],” Riley said.
Fulfilling the obligations of an RA or GRA is considered a student’s first nonacademic priority, according to the Residence Life website. If an RA cannot make the Wednesday night meetings, he or she may have to give up the position, regardless of how far into the semester the time conflict arises, according to the site.
Residence Life’s stance, Dellaquila said, leads her to feel that BU and Residence Life, in particular, are losing sight of their commitment to students’ education.
“We deserve respect and dignity and we deserve to put our educations first,” Dellaquila said. “I feel like the message that they’re sending is that I shouldn’t put my education first and [that] I had to put this job first, and if I cannot put the job first, then I can’t have the job.”
Kiran Galani contributed reporting.