‘So many people are fighting for their lives getting this job’: Emerson students weigh in on RA decisions

Little+Building+and+Walker+Building+in+snow.

Photo: Zhihao Wu

Little Building and Walker Building in snow.

By Mike McHugh, Staff Writer

After the college announced its hirings for resident assistants last month, a select group of students was afforded the opportunity to serve in the role next year—while many others were left in uncertain financial circumstances.

The Office of Housing and Residential Education released its decisions on March 15, marking the end of the long-anticipated hiring process. Many students apply to the positions every year to avoid paying room and board—an expense that typically runs Emerson students $22,554, but which the college pays for accepted RAs. 

With the costs of undergraduate tuition and room and board increasing by 2 percent next year, students who are not accepted may need to take out loans or reevaluate their living situation entirely.

“Emerson is expensive,” said Kendel Dawson, a junior visual and media arts student who was also accepted. “For someone like me taking out loans, knocking off room and board would help me a large amount in paying for my education.” 

In the case of some students, the college’s hiring decision decides whether they can afford to continue enrollment at all.

“I come from a low-income family and my mom’s a single mom, so that’s also a huge stress taken off of our shoulders,” said Juliana Perez, a third-year visual media arts transfer student who was accepted as an RA.

In regards to the process, many said they wished for more consideration of students’ individual struggles with affording housing. 

“The frustration lies in the fact that tuition and room and board costs are so outrageous that so many people are fighting for their lives getting this job,” one anonymous student said.

Other applicants, like junior visual media arts student Rayquan Blake, said the position was, first and foremost, an opportunity to support the Emerson community.

“My main reason for applying was deeply rooted in my passion for helping others,” Blake said. “Last week I got the good news that I was offered the position of a full-year resident assistant. I was thrilled and honestly grateful.”

Some transfer students applied in part to alleviate the stress that new students face—a stress they themselves know all too well.  

“Knowing how hard it can be to kind of transition into college as a transfer student, I wanted to make that transition easier for other transfer students who feel really isolated—coming in halfway through your college career and not knowing anyone,” said Perez.

Applicants’ opinions differed in the case of whether or not all aspects of the application process were fair, but most agreed that being turned down was a devastating blow.

“It’s just something that I really want,” said one student, who requested anonymity. “I just hope spots open up for people to hopefully get asked [to be an RA] at some point in the coming months.”

With so many students competing for only 30 positions, students were well aware that they were up against stiff competition. Some have accepted their rejections more willingly than others. 

“So many people are in the same boat,” one student said. “I can’t be upset about someone who got in instead of me, because I don’t know their financial circumstances.”