Tessa Dufore | The Poly Post

Resignation letter suggests disconnect between housing and RAs

By Caleb Nguyen, April 11, 2023

A 30-page letter from a former Cal Poly Pomona resident advisor detailed the strain and duress from the demands of the job as well as additional stress from University Housing leadership’s direction. 

Andy Fisher-Shin described many issues during his time as a student leader, with the most concerning aspect being the unfair power dynamic between area coordinators and RAs such as himself. 

“Your job is held over your head and that’s a very common occurrence in meetings with area coordinators,” said Fisher-Shin. “A lot of the time there’s the sense that you’re being threatened with your job and your place of living.”

Fisher-Shin’s complaints to University Housing contained numerous topics including lack of proper compensation, extensive hours on duty, favoritism among ACs against certain RAs, improper work life balance while working for Housing and inadequate training for aiding residents or in crisis situations.  

Fisher-Shin also explained how the mental health concerns of him and many other leads on the job are not adequately addressed by ACs or leadership. 

“Yeah, I did feel a lot of stress with the job,” said Fisher-Shin. “I actually was stressed enough that I thought I was having like, heart issues. I went to have a doctor check and they told me it was stress, and I didn’t realize before then how much Housing was stressing me out.” 

University Housing Director Reyes Luna received Fisher-Shin’s letter and thought the issues discussed remained important for both Housing leadership and student leads to consider for the future. 

Caleb Nguyen | The Poly Post

“We would have hoped that the student leaders felt comfortable to come forward to us because again, we place a lot of importance in this role of student lead,” said Luna. “For it to be somebody submitting it in a form of a resignation and to take the time to do a 30-page detailed response, again for me, it was a surprise, but one in which I think we all can benefit from.”

Despite Fisher-Shin’s departure from his position, current RAs also corroborate his position about leadership and issues with University Housing’s direction. 

Student lead Alysa Castillo mentioned that the initial summer training University Housing designates for them is not sufficient and leaves RAs in the dark through dealing with certain situations with residents. 

“I know once the letter dropped, we still were doing things like resumes, mental health platters, responsibilities going over that,” said Castillo. “But not what we really needed to know for our role which made the RAs this year ill-prepared.”

Luna reiterated that miscommunication on such a level remains an area of concern for University Housing and its student leadership base, especially concerning the initial training that students receive. 

“I think it began with us revamping our training modules and figuring out what is it that these student leaders really need to know,” said Luna. “We’ll be also working on manuals over the summer, so we can have all of those procedures and protocols kind of put together in writing.”

Another point of contention mentioned by Fisher-Shin was the insufficient methods to receive information University Housing leadership would not clearly give to RAs, often relying on gossip amongst other RAs to properly handle certain situations.  

“If you had just said that this individual is not allowed in these buildings  due to policy violations, which is something that we have had to communicate about,” said Fisher-Shin. “But we wouldn’t have gone at all if we hadn’t been talking to other RA’s and sort of been using this gossip exchange. So, it’s like a necessary evil because UHS doesn’t adequate information.” 

University Housing Senior Coordinator La’Keisha Beard added her perspective on improving the disconnect between student leaders and University Housing leadership this year. 

“So a lot of this has to happen through email, but we have been trying to pull space for already to either come by my office or office hours or to schedule meetings where they can come,” said Beard. “But we’ve been very committed to streamlining the communication and we are looking at our training. For all for our age, it seems as we prepare for summer training as a way to address some of these concerns also.”

Castillo reinforced the extensive hours needed for the profession is an unreasonable amount of time expected of RAs to be on duty for residents with lack of aid from those in higher standing among Housing. 

“Whenever I was in my room,” said Castillo. “I was in the middle of a midterm and had to stop my midterm to talk to a resident for two hours because I couldn’t leave them in the state that they were in. I was off duty just trying to get my midterm done. I couldn’t just say, ‘Hey, I’m in the middle of the midterm. Can we talk in a bit?’ It was not that kind of response that the resident needed.”

Luna offered sentiments that area coordinators should be taking more responsibility in this regard due to RAs having other needs to attend to as students and as people outside of the occupation. 

“There should be the flexibility for them to be able to schedule a meeting with the resident, especially a resident who has a concern or need,” said Luna. “To say, ‘I could only meet with you at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, can we make that happen?’ And my answer in response would be that the AC should be making that happen.”

With many concerns across former and current student leads, University Housing has offered solutions and chances to communicate with higher leadership to slowly but surely rectify some of these wrongs. 

 “I told all the student leaders in that meeting, I apologize to them for their experience because this is not what I want a student leader to say,” said Luna. “So we’re committed to making those changes and we will continue to work and hope that students come forward. My commitment and goal is that we’re moving forward with historical information guiding us as we continue to make modifications and changes.”

Feature image by Caleb Nguyen

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