New problems bring change to RA preparation

Sexual assault awareness and cross-cultural tensions present more responsibilities.

Jason+Lin%2F+THE+CHIMES
Jason Lin/ THE CHIMES

Jason Lin/ THE CHIMES

Jason Lin/ THE CHIMES

Samantha Gassaway, Writer

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The hallways seem emptier. Loneliness creeps into the student’s mind, separated from everyone and filled with a pain only a few troubled souls can resonate with.

Intense simulation exercises

Uncovered sexual assault awareness statistics on Biola’s campus reared their ugly head last April, when the club Brave Voices shed some light on the statistics behind America’s hidden monster. In addition, racism and tension took the campus by storm when a swastika corrupted the symbol of the Christian faith. As a result, Residence Life buckled down in training Resident Advisors on how to deal with these issues with grace and understanding.

Resident advisors represent comfort and offer support to the students they look after. However, when spontaneous crisis shakes a campus, training can never anticipate the aftermath. Persi George, sophomore business major, joined residence life this year as an RA for Blackstone Hall, and feels the intense preparation proves sufficient for everyday life.

“We dealt with a lot of situations and simulations that had a lot to do with rape cases. So RAs were trained in that — how to best care for students that have dealt with rape in the past,” George said. “We also had some training with race and diversity on campus and issues related to that. So those are the two big things I feel like have carried on to this year.”

Intense simulation exercises are one aspect of RA training often overlooked. Anne Warner, Resident Director of Hope South, expressed the deep need for education on these topics. RDs set aside one day during training for open discussion on a topic of choice, called Student Care Day. Warner lead the initiative with this education through playing a crucial role in the faculty task force behind sexual assault awareness week in April 2016.

“For a while, we’ve been wanting to beef up how we talk about racial reconciliation and navigating conversations on that topic as a department,” Warner said. “[RAs] are getting a little more training in terms of how to respond in a kind of empathetic kind of way. We’re really pushing that as a priority.”

Another vital aspect of RA training takes place the month before residents even move in: dorm decoration and planning. Building RDs have access to funding for decor and events every year and have the responsibility to ration out the amount to respective floors as they see fit; for example, each Blackstone floor received 75 dollars for decorations alone.

RAs adequately prepared

“At least for Blackstone, our RD gave us a sheet of paper that kind of divvied up the funds we have for this year, so we were already allocated for each floor a certain amount of money for decorations,” George said. “Then everything else was divvied up for events for the floor, then the whole Blackstone dorm we have all-halls.”

By far, the most important thing for an RA at Biola rests in the hearts of their respective students. The month before classes begin, intentional prayer pours from residence life toward the students represented by carefully-crafted nameplates already placed on their dorm room doors. Because of this care and intentionality, RAs devote themselves to education on how best to handle unexpected and spontaneous circumstances.

“In that training, we’re also not wanting to flood them with the idea that they need to care for all of [past pain] in a person and they need to take all of that on. So we’re really trying to give them the skills to … point them to resources — to RDs, to BCC, to spiritual direction, to groups on campus that are meeting to find freedom in their stories and have other people to process similar life experiences,” Warner said.

Second year RA and senior communications major, Tebraie Johns can compare last year’s training with this year’s as he chose to return to be a resident advisor for a second time. Interestingly, the differences between his first-year intensive training and this year’s more diluted form of training focused mainly on his chosen dorm. He does admit to considerable stress put on whichever issues are relevant at the time of training — this year’s important topics revolved around diversity and sexual assault awareness.

“It’s important to have that conversation. I don’t know if they addressed [sexual assault and racial reconciliation] because of Brave Voice and because of what happened in May. I would just say that it’s always been a topic in Res Life to have, especially at Biola,” Johns said.

Johns also acclaims Biola’s Residence Life for adequately preparing RAs for situations similar to these, with residents coming forward with past trauma and attempts to reconcile.

“Just having that conversation with a resident or anyone can be awkward or uncomfortable because you don’t know what to say how much to say, you don’t know where the line is drawn,” Johns said. “I feel that in Res Life they train you how to listen to someone, how to be present with someone. And in a lot of cases I feel like that’s all a person needs, is an ear to listen.”

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