Miami University's residence hall occupancy isn’t expected to rise drastically this upcoming semester, and resident assistants (RAs) plan on enforcing COVID-19 policies just as they did in the fall.
“We’re expecting a little bit higher of a number this semester compared to last,” Brian Woodruff, Miami’s director of campus services, said. “It’s shaping up to be around 5,000 students in dorms this year compared to 4,500 that we had last semester.”
For reference, Woodruff said that in a normal year not affected by COVID-19, Miami sees around 8,000 students in it’s residence halls.
Many policies relating to COVID-19 are still in place. Residents are allowed only one guest per roommate, there are to be no overnight guests in a dorm and everyone is required to wear a mask when walking around the building.
For RAs, being able to enforce guest rules can be troublesome. Several RAs spoke to The Miami Student under the condition of anonymity — due to restrictions of their job that prevent them from speaking to the media — about the challenges.
“I know we’re supposed to be all over limiting guests in the dorms, and we have to report it, but there’s not really much we can do about it,” said one RA on Western Campus. “I’m not about to break down doors in every dorm to check for guests.”
While guest policies are harder to enforce, mask policies are not.
“I didn’t have to write up anyone for not having a mask on, but I certainly would,” another RA on Western Campus said. “After a year of the COVID pandemic, it’s part of our lives. There’s no excuse not to wear one around campus.”
According to RAs, repeat offenders of mask policies could be sent to a disciplinary hearing under the Office of Community Standards, although it is very uncommon.
“After a write-up, you get a conversation with the RD (Resident Director), and then you could be looking at a disciplinary hearing,” an East Quad RA said. “I’ve never had any instances for writing anyone up [under the mask policy], however.”
Alongside maintaining COVID-19 policies, RAs are also expected to come up with events that can help connect students throughout the residence hall.
“The limit of 10 people in a room prevents us from doing too many in-person events,” a Western Campus RA said.
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The solution? Less in-person, more Zoom, which one RA said has decreased participation.
“You know, Zoom fatigue sets in,” a Western Campus RA said. “Students go from their Zoom meetings and class, and now on top of that, we’re asking them to join our Zoom events. It’s just hard to build community.”
Less opportunities to meet in person also means first-year students are having a harder time meeting each other.
“People are just scared of getting the virus, understandably so,” a Western Campus RA said. “You don’t want to have to wear your mask to do homework anywhere, so people are more comfortable in their rooms.”
Residence halls, excluding Heritage Commons and Hawks Landing, are also keeping the color code system utilized last semester to monitor and signify positive cases in various residence halls.
While many students might feel strict mask enforcements are a little too harsh, one East Quad RA said to remember that they are in the same boat.
“I just want residents to know that RAs are people, too.”