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WUNC's education coverage is led by reporters Dave Dewitt and Reema Khrais. Dewitt has been with the station since 2003. Khrais is focused on Education Policy Reporting. Browse recent stories here.

Resident Advisors At NC State Say They Were Put On The Front Lines Of Reopening

Students sitting on the North Carolina State campus wearing masks and socially distanced.
N.C. State University
Students sitting on the North Carolina State campus wearing masks and socially distanced.

Students at universities across North Carolina are struggling to maintain a normal campus life. For one particular group of students, the pandemic has created some special challenges.

In normal years, the job of a resident advisor is difficult, but often rewarding. RA's serve as a key resource for younger students, helping them to connect and live their best college lives. For their efforts at NC State University, RA's receive a stipend, free on-campus housing, and a meal plan allowance.  

But this year, many RA's at N.C. State say they were given duties during COVID-19 that didn't seem fair to them.

"I heard word for word people say, 'I didn’t sign up for this,'" senior Syon Chand said. "Which I think is really fair because it definitely wasn’t communicated to us -- like your job is no longer supporting students and stuff, it’s -- you’re mask police."

Chand says he and other RA's were tasked with enforcing the University's new maks policy to limit spread of COVID-19 on campus.

"The reality of the beginning of August for RA’s were, we would walk outside our room and immediately see people without masks and then immediately have to confront those situations," Chand said.

Chand says he was so bothered that he considered quitting, and he heard that others felt the same.

"There was a growing sense of unease among most of the RA’s who were in a pretty dangerous situation," Chand said.

Chand gathered many of his RA colleagues together and wrote a letter to the N.C. State Housing office.

The letter detailed a long list of what they called, "unacceptable conditions." Those include poor communication, crowd management, and cleaning procedures. 

"An example of some things we asked for were like, more PPE," Chand said.

WUNC reached out to N.C. State for comment, but the university did not make an administrator available for an interview on this subject. 

Instead, in a statement, NC State spokesman Fred Hartman said that the school, "values our resident advisors tremendously," but that, with all classes moving online, there needed to be a reduction in active RA positions for this semester.

Sept. 6 was the deadline for students to move out of the dorms at N.C. State. A few days after moving out, Chand got the official notice that his time as an RA was over.

"This job has been one of the highlights of my time in college," Chand said. "And it really sucks to see it become such a significant point of contention with the University over something I truly love doing."

Some RA's were retained, to manage the few students still remaining. Chand was able to move off campus in Raleigh with help from his parents. But he knows other RA’s who don’t have that option.

Cole del Charco is an audio producer and writer based in Durham. He's made stories for public radio's All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Marketplace. Before joining Due South, he spent time as a freelance journalist, an education and daily news reporter for WUNC, and a podcast producer for WFAE in Charlotte.
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