Residence advisors adapt to new responsibilities during COVID-19 pandemic

RAs are tasked with keeping residence halls safe as coronavirus continues to spread


Graphic by Abby Vervaeke

Ally Despathy, Staff Writer

This semester, the responsibilities of a Simmons resident assistant were not just mediating roommate conflicts, or ensuring the environment in the residence halls was comfortable, safe and supportive for all students. RAs also had the role of keeping the current number of students in the residence halls safe and healthy, while anxiously awaiting the next wave of students that are coming to campus in the Spring.

To learn more about how RAs managed their new responsibilities, The Voice spoke with two RAs prior to campus closing before Thanksgiving. 

“Right now we have roughly 100 students on campus, so we just want to make sure when the 500 students come to campus follow the community conduct standards.” said Julianna Fernandez, a senior in her second year as an RA.

The Simmons Community Standards for Fall 2020 semester were created for all current and incoming students living on campus during the pandemic. The standards are made up of three sections. Section one has students acknowledge the risks of living on campus, section two highlights Simmons’ specific COVID-19 policies, and section three details general residence life rules.

“I’m trying to make sure the students aren’t feeling too isolated,” Fernandez said about being an RA to so few students. “It’s a little difficult to get people excited about resident programs, and we have programs and activities for students not on campus too, but it’s still challenging to get everyone enthusiastic and involved.” 

With the challenges and new responsibilities, Fernandez said she’s lucky to have a good support system around her. “The semester is definitely really weird, and it’s my senior year so it’s just funny to think I’m an RA during a pandemic in my last year of college.”

She mentioned that generally she’s feeling how everyone seems to be feeling about the pandemic’s impact on college life, but is still trying to be optimistic about the entire situation. 

“I can say generally being an RA was really weird this semester because most of the time I was supporting my residents in areas that I would seek support in myself,” said Hannah Bishop, junior nursing student and fellow RA. 

The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of students and RAs alike. “For example, most of my residents came to talk to me about the pandemic and what their virtual life was like. They usually asked me for advice but I was also trying to figure out everything that comes with our new virtual format so I was scrambling to find an answer for myself and my residents,” Bishop said about her feelings during this unusual semester.

Despite the difficulties these past few months have posed, Bishop is staying hopeful about next semester. Similar to Fernandez, she’s optimistic about the upcoming semester being easier because Simmons students already have one virtual semester under their belt.