Monday, January 30, 2012

RA Group Process: McGyver or McGruber

This past Saturday and Sunday was one of those weekends that I spend the whole year dreading: RA Group Process. It is a long weekend spent evaluating eager student leaders while they build bridges made from marshmallows, dried linguine, and rice cakes—what are they, McGyver?  Honestly, judging from how a few of the applicants act, you would think they were McGruber instead. They goof off, jockey for first place in the douche-canoe contest, and completely ignore the fact that they are on a job interview.

By the time the afternoon interviews arrive, my patience is painfully thin, and I just cannot take another saccharine-sweet response to generic group process questions. However, with each new applicant, I am faced with an abundance of politically correct, rehearsed answers. Despite the large number of diverse students I have interviewed throughout the years, I have discovered and catalogued three types of bad interviewees (hey, I have to do something to keep myself awake).

Student #1 rambles incessantly about the professor they argued with over a grade, the roommate they constantly fought with over a drunken crush, and the parent who refused to buy them an iPad 2 for Christmas. Their diatribes are rich with syllables, but poor on substance. Student #2 provides very little material beyond, “I love people and I love to help people. I would be a great RA, because my RA was such an influence my first year”. Their answers make me fantasize about sticking my pencil into my cornea in order to escape the banality of the interview.

Finally, the third type of bad interviewee is my favorite! They are usually one of the last ones of the day, making their interview a combination of punch-drunk exuberance and self-pity (for me). When asked why they want to be an RA, they admit stupidly, “I need full room and board, because my financial aid is too low this semester”. When asked about their weaknesses, they answer with the standard “I don’t have any” or “I work too hard”. Finally, when asked about their experience with diversity, they reference that one time they accidentally drove through Harlem or when they had a roommate they knew was a “closeted gay” since he had every episode of Glee on Blu-Ray.

No matter how many times I mark “do NOT hire” on all three types of applications, they somehow make it onto a staff. Our weak group process continuously fails to weed out the slackers, the users, or the liars; but, at least they are qualified to create a sticky pasta bridge on the fly. 


  1. Oh how I love the marshmallow bridges...If you can't make a bridge out of food, how do you expect to bebable to help new freshman adapt to college.

  2. I also get frustrated when professional staff put down a emphatic "DO NOT HIRE," and when it comes down to it, people get desperate, make excuses, and then we end up hiring people who are COMPLETELY wrong for job (marshmallow bridge building non-withstanding.)

  3. From my time as an RA, I believed strongly that group process is a waste of time that doesn't measure anything. If anything it actually discriminates against introverts. For a decade, I held the goal that one day I would wipe group process from the face of the earth. I came across a textbook called "Staffing Organizations" by Herbert Heneman, which gave me all the ammunition I needed to convince higher-ups that group process needed to go. Then, I got promoted to an Assistant Director job at another institution and found myself in charge of RA Selection. The first thing to go way group process. I applaud anyone who seeks to take down this silly practice. It is a waste of time and predictive of nothing.