What It’s Like to Be an R.A. Now

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Already, the R.A.s have seen students coming back to the dorms at night from off-campus parties, inebriated and sometimes without masks. At that point, their instructions are not to engage, in order to minimize their exposure, but to use the reporting app to log the names and behaviors of the students, who will then face disciplinary action (up to and including expulsion for the most severe violations, like hosting a party).

In August, R.A.s at Cornell went on strike, saying that they weren’t being offered sufficient protective equipment. “Please consider taking a stand with us,” read an email that the strike organizers sent to R.A.s, which was reported by The Cornell Sun. “We cannot allow Cornell to take advantage of their front line, especially now when lives are at stake.”

Other R.A.s report they are similarly undersupported.

At UMass Amherst, “the university told us that we should be able to wear one mask for an entire week,” said James Cordero, a senior and an R.A., noting that this policy went against federal mask-usage guidelines. “So we fiercely pushed back against this and did win seven masks for every R.A.”

Ramon Reyes, 20, a senior and an R.A., said, “This is the great Cornell experiment.” While other Ivy League schools, including Harvard, have not opened campuses, Cornell is eager to thrive in the pandemic.

“I think that’s part of the reason why the administration is so keen on making this work, is because they want to be the ones who do it,” Mr. Reyes said. “But we feel also that what comes with that is that they’re making it up as they go.”

He appreciates that the administration is trying to adapt to changing and challenging circumstances. “But when you’re making up plans as you go along, oftentimes responsibilities get pushed farther and farther down the chain and we feel that the brunt of the responsibility was thrust upon us,” he said. “And that’s something that we didn’t necessarily sign up for.”

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