With the arrival of QuadEx, resident assistants are trying to adapt to evolving roles as they navigate with limited knowledge of the new model.
Announced this year after much behind-the-scenes development, the QuadEx residential system pairs East Campus houses with West Campus quads, in hopes that the quads will “develop [their] own identity, traditions and social events,” according to the QuadEx website.
“We found out [about QuadEx] about the same time as everybody else,” said sophomore Cindy Xu, a Craven Quad resident assistant. “There was no special announcement or anything, and we're just trying to figure it out along with non-RAs.”
RAs’ responsibilities include building community, and they’re trying to expand this beyond their own dorms. This semester, East Campus resident coordinators have planned and hosted joint events with their paired West campus quad, while West Campus quads have hosted spring events designed to welcome new members.
Blackwell and Randolph, the East Campus dorms paired with Keohane Quad, recently held an event to build connections between residents and introduce first-years to their new quad. Blackwell and Randolph’s “Keohane Crossover'' featured Loop catering, human hamster balls and room tours. While these crossover events have largely been planned by the residence coordinators, RAs are expected to facilitate these events and are allowed to plan joint events without HRL’s assistance.
The University has not yet fully fleshed out how RAs should interact with their paired communities, according to Deb LoBiondo, dean of Housing and Residence Life.
“I have heard some concerns from RAs around [if] they're going to be expected to do more in their role–RAs on East collaborating more with RAs on West and vice versa. I don't necessarily think that's going to be the case,” LoBiondo said. “We haven't entirely ruled out the role of the RAs moving forward in terms of QuadEx, but I don't anticipate there being a lot of changes.”
However, LoBiondo expressed hope that RAs can play a role in rolling out new policies, including the recently loosened alcohol and drug policy announced on March 27. HRL met with West Campus RAs to introduce this policy and address any concerns on March 21.
“We like to roll those things out and make the RA team aware so they're not blindsided by any changes, and because it impacts them and their ability to effectively enforce said new practice or policy,” LoBiondo said. “[We are] making sure they have the skills and the knowledge necessary to pivot and make any changes that they need to make moving forward.”
Sophomore Elisha Tan, a Blackwell RA, expressed concern about the lack of communication regarding QuadEx. She pointed to HRL’s top-down communication system, in which the deans interface with the RCs, who in turn pass on directives to the RAs.
“The issue with that is that we have about as much communicative power as normal students do with the administration,” said Tan. “We can complain to our RCs, and our RCs can maybe talk to the deans, but so far with QuadEx, they're really trying to push it, so they're not really taking much feedback, if you ask me—at least on certain fronts.”
Tan mentioned the difficulty of addressing the issue of first-years who have already found their communities outside their quads.
“If you're focused on community building and having people who actually feel like they're included in this community, it's a little bit heartbreaking to see people who have a community and fit in with certain people on campus [to be] blocked from being able to really be connected, solely based off of the system,” she said.
Despite the difficulty of adjusting to a new system, LoBiondo believes that RAs form a special niche within the Duke community as leaders with a diverse skill set.
“The RAs are our eyes and ears. They’re probably—in my opinion, and some folks might disagree with this—they are the most important leadership role we have on this campus,” she said. “They are well-trained, and we're going to continue to do that. But they are really, really, really important in our process as we move into this QuadEx philosophy even more intently.”
RAs continue to be cautiously optimistic about the new system, training and responsibilities aside. Despite their roles as an integral part of campus life, RAs are still trying to adapt under the guidance from administrators.
“I feel like the main problem is just [that] HRL and Duke administration [have] trouble communicating or making sure the student body is aware of changes before they start rolling them out,” Xu said. “There’s just similar frustration. I don’t think RAs are special students. We share the same concerns as the rest of the student body.”
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Audrey Wang is a Trinity junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 119th volume.