RA position replaced, on-campus apartments to have house ‘community development advisors’

The resident assistant (RA) position will be replaced with two new roles, first year advisor (FYA) and community development advisor (CDA), next fall. This is one aspect of a larger change in the housing program, as Latin Way Apartments, Sophia Gordon Hall, Hillsides Apartments and Richardson House will all have in-house CDAs beginning next fall, according to Area Three Residence Director Julie Kennedy.

According to Kennedy, the Medford/Somerville campus is not the only Tufts campus that will see ResLife changes, as the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ two residence houses near the Fenway campus will also be included in the FYA/CDA change.

According to ResLife Director Yolanda King, the new FYAs will maintain the traditional RA responsibilities of residential hall community organization, helping resolve conflicts between residents and upholding Tufts’ official campus policies. However, their position will be entirely focused on the needs of first-year students.

Therefore, according to Area Four Residence Director Donisha Thaxton, FYAs will have increased interaction with orientation leaders (OL) so that first-years will know their FYAs and OLs equally well by the time the semester begins. FYAs will focus on integrating first-years with each other and showing them opportunities in the Tufts community.

According to Kennedy, FYAs will have a role focused on first-year students because “students need more from their RAs during their first years.”

Thaxton noted that CDAs will serve as ResLife staff for upperclassmen and will have the same traditional responsibilities of RAs in that they will shape the community within the halls. CDAs will also act as a resource to help residents build upon their communities both on and off campus.

Therefore, according to Kennedy, CDAs should be aware of the specific needs of upperclassmen, both in terms of resolving conflicts and being able to refer students to on- and off-campus opportunities.

CDAs will be posted to halls based upon the needs of the hall and will then be able to choose their room and their suitemates, according to Thaxton.

CDAs will also provide opportunities for suites and floors to interact with each other, Thaxton added. For instance, CDAs will help to increase peer accountability, so if students have noise issues with neighbors or hallmates, CDAs will be there to enforce Tufts policies.

Prospective FYAs and CDAs will select the role for which they feel best suited. Thus, one does not have to be an FYA before becoming a CDA, according to Kennedy.

More specifically, the changes are intended to improve the student residential experience, according to Associate Director of ResLife Jerome Holland. For instance, having a student CDA live in one of the traditionally independent halls such as the Hillsides or Latin Way Apartments decreases the invasiveness of checks or conflict mediation when the CDA actually lives with and knows the students involved, Holland said.

Currently, ResLife staff members do not live in these independent halls and area residence directors instead perform occasional health and safety checks, according to Holland. He added that residents can also reach out to staff in case of conflict, but because most students do not know the staff, this has the potential to make delicate issues more difficult to resolve.

According to King, there will be about twice as many FYAs as CDAs, with a rough estimate of 77 total FYAs and CDAs combined.

Thaxton said that inside individual residential halls, it is possible that first-years in halls with upperclassmen may have their own floor or their own section of the hall, which could increase the effectiveness of the FYA and CDA system because the two could operate in their respective spheres. 

The described changes come in light of feedback from current and former RAs as well as student survey responses, Thaxton added.