The Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) announced in a meeting with student staff on Sunday that it will be restructuring student roles within residence halls. The First-Year Assistant (FYA) and Community Development Assistant (CDA) positions will no longer exist and will be replaced by Resident Assistant (RA) positions beginning in the 2020–21 academic year, just two years after ResLife created the FYA and CDA positions.
According to a previous Daily report, CDAs are compensated significantly less than FYAs: ResLife gives CDAs a $1,500 stipend, a partial meal plan and does not cover any housing costs.
Nadia Vargas, associate director of the residential education, told the Daily in an email that the RA position will be compensated with a room credit that will cover the cost of each staff member’s housing in the residence halls, marking a slight pay cut for FYAs, who currently receive a meal plan as part of their compensation.
Vargas indicated that the idea to get rid of FYA and CDA positions gained support over the summer.
“We began to pitch and play with different ideas on how we could restructure the positions in a manner that allowed us to preserve our department’s capacity to promote community, wellness, and safety while also compensating our staff at a level that is commensurate with the effort we expect them to put in,” she said.
According to Vargas, the ORLL worked hand-in-hand with student staff members to ensure their voices were being heard and that the office prioritized their needs. The move to create RA positions was largely encouraged by the fact that, while the FYA and CDA roles are different in the context that they serve residents, the two positions ask staff to commit to similar workload levels, Vargas said.
Joshua Hartman, director of ResLife, echoed Vargas’ statement in an email, adding that the terms FYA and CDA were a source of confusion. He acknowledged the different titles and discredited the belief that the roles of CDAs were not as important.
“Assumptions that the CDA is a less important role … is not at all the case,” Hartman said. “Our CDAs have been outstanding these past few years, and their excellent work, commitment to their residents, and passion for developing community has really laid the groundwork for this decision.”
According to the office’s website, RAs will live in the residence halls and mentor students at Tufts by introducing them to resources on campus. They will serve as a support system and aid students’ transition into the university while helping them integrate into the community.
“RAs are the primary point of comprehensive support for students at Tufts … [they] work with the Office of Residential Life & Learning to shape an environment that supports intellectual and personal growth and cultivates a living-learning community,” the website says.
RAs will also design activities for engagement and empower students to explore curricular and co-curricular offerings. In order to be considered for the RA position, a student must meet several requirements, including having a course load no less than 12 semester hour units and a cumulative 2.5 grade point average.
Cara Dufresne, a sophomore CDA in Wren Hall, spoke to the Daily about the recent changes.
“I liked the idea … the FYA and CDA roles are a lot closer than people think they are,” Dufresne said. “There were a few of us that during training brought up some concerns, and then we formed some groups and got some information … we looked at what other schools were doing and compared it to Tufts.”
After analyzing the matter carefully, Dufresne and a group consisting of CDAs and leads, experienced CDAs and FYAs designated with greater responsibilities, set up a meeting with the ResLife.
“We talked with [ResLife] and what we wanted was the exact same thing that they wanted, so it worked out well,” she said. “We had a meeting where we all aired our concerns, then we had two separate meetings and then we had the final meeting on Sunday.”
Overall, Dufresne was satisfied with ResLife’s response.
“ResLife was responsive to everything that we wanted,” she said.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the future RA position would be compensated with a full room credit and a $1500 stipend. RAs will instead only receive a full room credit, not the $1500 stipend. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.