Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lazy RAs: “We are the 99%”

There are times when even the most cynical and overworked Hall Director (i.e.: BadHallDirector) is pleasantly surprised by the creative ideas of their RAs. Earlier this month, several members of my staff identified the need for a diversity program focused on how discriminatory players can be when immersed in video games. Since Call of Duty was recently released and many of their residents have been consumed with killing alongside their virtual friends, they felt this would attract a lot of people and be a timely topic to explore.

The program was advertised as a COD tournament with free food and prizes to be won during the night. For the first half, the RAs had participants play a brief round while they monitored the comments made throughout the game, which they noted for future discussion. Once the round was complete, the residents were asked to sit in a circle and enjoy the refreshments, while the RAs read off a selection of comments overheard during the tournament. A few participants snickered while the RAs repeated, straight-faced, “die fag” and “you’re such a pussy”. However, there were a few residents who showed surprise or embarrassment that they, or their fellow players, had made such sexist/homophobic remarks. For the remainder of the program, a few quality conversations were had. Overall, it was successful.

This event was a welcomed respite from the stale Diversity Ice Cream Socials that too many RAs fall back on when they rush to complete their programming requirements. These programs usually flood my desk in November and April, the last month of programming, at which time they are scrambling to finish their checklists. Despite our department’s lengthy training and brainstorming on creating programs that not only entertain, but educate residents, my staff seems content to recycle the same seven every semester. To counteract this problem, I spent several staff meetings having them come up with ideas that had never been done in our hall. With these programs, I created a “recipe book”, which gave every RA at least 25 ideas from which to draw. Yet, I still heard the same excuse, “I don’t have any ideas for [insert category or requirement]”. Too much whining and not enough thinking.

What is my point? Too often, I am nonplussed by my staff and their apparent laziness or lack of creativity. Sometimes I think they have given up and are just buying time until their contract runs out. However, as evidenced by the video game program, there are times when I am happily amazed at what a little imagination can do for a program. My, what stimulating and deep conversations can happen when RAs take the time to think—imagine that!


  1. I am constantly constantly amazed by how my staff fails to find a way to turn these so-called fallback programs into something educational. What a great example, kudos to you and your staff!

  2. It is possible that many RA'a do not plan these fun and educating programs because they are lazy, but for other reasons, such as low attendance, being mocked, or close-minded residents.

  3. This is an old post, and I'm certainly late to the party, but I have to agree with the second Anon here.

    As an RA, I've made many a program that wasn't just movie nights or pizza parties - one of my favourites was a Banned Book Tea Party, where I brought an extensive collection of teas along with a bunch of banned books/information on them. The point of the program was to think residents thinking about freedom of speech, censorship, and how it certainly relates to them.

    Despite advertising, door-knocking, and personal invitations, only 3 residents (out of my 52) showed up. The ones who did show up really enjoyed the tea - and more importantly, the discussion and group activities - which is a plus, but I was still very discouraged.

    If attendance is middling and residents aren't willing to at least give new things a try, I feel like there's no point in creating awesome programming. It's disappointing.