Firing, resignation removed half of Ellicott Hall’s RAs

By Jenny Hottle, senior staff writer
Monday, Sept. 16, 2013
Originally posted on

In the days leading up to the start of the fall semester, North Campus Resident Life officials had to scramble to hire new Ellicott Hall resident assistants after eight students resigned or were fired for violating their conditions of employment.

New and returning resident assistants arrived on the campus Aug. 18 for training. After an Ellicott Community discussion on alcohol policies the next day, Resident Life officials learned a group of resident assistants violated several parts of the alcohol policy, said Amy Martin, resident life associate director for North Campus.

Martin would not provide details on the incident but said officials made it clear to resident assistants that alcohol-related violations — including underage drinking, drinking while on duty, providing alcohol to minors and having parties in residence halls — are grounds for dismissal. In addition to the eight who were fired or resigned, several others out of the building’s 16 total resident assistants were put on probation, Martin said.

Each resident assistant involved underwent two reviews following the incident, one based on their employment conditions and the other a judicial process involving the Code of Student Conduct, Martin said, leading to a range of sanctions.

“They’re role models and leaders, and part of their training is about the fact that they have to uphold campus policies and community living standards in residence halls,” Martin said. “It was very devastating, not only for the students involved, but we were very concerned about opening the building and those kinds of things.”

A North Campus resident assistant, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the resulting sanctions were unfair, especially because the incident occurred prior to the start of the academic year.

“There was definitely a lacking of equality in their judgment,” the resident assistant said. “They just didn’t want a nonexistent staff. Better to have half a staff than zero staff.”

Resident Life officials were able to fill all the vacant positions within 10 to 14 days of the investigation, Martin said. The scale of the incident was the largest Martin had seen in her 14 years working on the campus, she said, but officials had a long waiting list of alternate candidates who were able to fill in.

Six of the newly hired Ellicott resident assistants came from that hiring pool, Martin said. But two came from the Gemstone honors program, a decision Martin said officials made so students from the program would be represented on the staff.

The new resident assistants are catching up on the training they missed, Martin said. However, not every new resident assistant has completed the semester-long training course, Introduction to Student Personnel. In special cases, a resident assistant may be employed while still taking the course, according to the university’s resident assistant conditions of employment.

“It seems to me approaching someone unknown [by Resident Life] is a bit more of a wild card,” the resident assistant said. “With someone you know through the RA class, you can just inform them about Gemstone. But with someone you know who is affiliated with Gemstone, you don’t know how they’ll be as an RA.”

It’s not a regular practice to reach out to students not in the candidate pool, Martin said, adding officials prefer to hire students from the alternate list.

Prior to the hiring of new employees, the resident assistant said Ellicott Community staff members helped prepare the building for move-in and arranged extra duty shifts. Some students who left their positions helped as well, Martin said.

“There was lots of help in getting the building ready, so I don’t think it fell to just the remaining RAs,” she said.

The resident assistant said the loss of so many staff members was a shock since it happened so close to the start of the semester. But it was more of a personal loss, she said, since she knew many of them well.

“A lot of those RAs I looked up to, I was friends with,” she said. “As an RA, the main impact I felt was a reminder of the risk involved because what happened to those RAs really could have happened to anyone.”

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