Most resident assistants look forward to getting to know their residents and enjoy spending time with them throughout the year. But the overwhelming, often unappreciated time commitment that comes with the position prevents some RA's from being enthusiastic about their job.

"I am expected to do RA activities no matter what else I have going on," said sophomore Lauren Reiman, an RA in Carolina. "It is a job. We are getting paid and we do need to take it seriously, but sometimes I feel like the expectations are a bit outrageous."

This frustration is felt by a number of RAs, who say they are often forced to make their RA commitments their first concern.

"I think that sometimes Residence Life pushes RA responsibilities to the first priority, and your schoolwork comes next, and then you as a person comes last," Reiman said. "And any other activities or groups that you may be involved in on campus go to the back burner."

Before the school year begins, RA's attend a week-and-a-half long training program that keeps them busy from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Throughout the year, their presence is mandatory at weekly meetings held on Wednesday nights, which last as long as three hours.

They have weekly individual meetings with their supervisors and perform rounds throughout the week, which consist of walking through residential buildings checking for damage, trash and signs of misbehavior. RAs are also required to plan monthly community-building activities for their residents and are part of larger, educational-based project teams that put on activities on a semester basis.

"It's a huge commitment — it's beyond a job," said Evan Heiser, assistant director of Residence Life. "Because it isn't a job where you have specific hours. And that's the biggest thing we try to help all of our RAs understand before they become one. It's a lifestyle and a job."

Senior Eleanor Broujos, who has been a housing assistant (HA) in The Oaks for three semesters, said she finds it unfair that her academics are often compromised by her HA commitments.

"There's a certain expectation at Elon to prioritize everything first," she said. "They want you to do the best job you can, but the fact of the matter is, I came here to be student, not at all to be an HA."

Heiser said Residence Life makes a conscious effort to make sure the RAs maintain or improve their GPA. Any RA with a GPA of 2.5 or below will go to academic probation, and anyone newly hired with a GPA of 3.0 or below will go on academic probation.

"It's not a punishment, it's just where they have to sit down with their supervisor and come up with a plan," Heiser said. "We want to make sure when you become an RA your grades actually increase. You need to be a student. Every single week they have to update their supervisor on their classes, plan out what programs they have coming up but also what class stuff, too."

Broujos had been told that being an HA would take up a significant amount of her time, but the extent to which this was true surprised her, she said. In September, Broujos was expected to plan six community-builder activities intended to bring together the students on her hall, an idea she said she found to be unrealistic. She will not be returning to Residence Life staff in the spring.

"Next semester I'm going to have so much on my plate, and finishing up my college academics strong is more important to me than being an HA," she said. "I'm just doing what's best for me personally."

Reiman is also not planning on returning to the staff for her junior year.

"I don't think I could do it again," she said. "I think it's fine for a year, and I've had a good time, but I'm definitely not looking to do it again next year because of the time commitment and because I don't know if it's worth it."

But for junior Emily Kane, the relationships she's formed with her residents make the time commitment worth it.

"My favorite part of being an RA is being able to be a resource to my residents," she said. "I love having the ability to connect them to other resources on campus in addition to being a support system and hopefully a person they feel they can come to with concerns."

Kane has also found her relationship with her Area Director helpful in terms of managing stress.

"In my weekly meetings with my Area Director, I can talk about what I have going on in my life, and she's very understanding and supportive," she said. "Two of my friends on staff and I jokingly call them our weekly counseling sessions."

All RAs are required to purchase the meal plan consistent with the residence hall they are living in. For some upperclassmen, this extra purchase means being an RA may not be the best option in terms of a source of income.

"At the very least, I think all RAs should be able to go on the block plan like I have," Kane said. "I was lucky that I'm in Colonnades and able to go on the 300 block. If I had been required to go on the All-Access plan, which is much more expensive, I don't think I would have chosen to be an RA."

Residence Life's reasoning behind the meal plan requirement has to do with their concern for the health and well-being of RAs, according to Heiser.

"We hold our RAs to the same requirement of any student in housing," Heiser said. "We have to make sure that everyone gets fed. A lot of our residence halls don't have kitchens. We don't want it to be (that) you're a senior in a residence hall, but you're not eating."

Although Broujos said she understands other students' frustration, she said she doesn't mind making the extra purchase.

"I love my meal plan," she said. "It's convenient because if I don't feel like cooking, than I can just go get something."

One aspect that is generally supported by RAs is the method in which they are paid. The price of their housing is reduced by half on their bill, but they are reimbursed for the half they do pay for through monthly paychecks throughout the year.

Heiser said the system has been popular because students enjoy receiving a tangible paycheck.

"It's the best of both worlds," he said. "You do get a paycheck, but also the stuff that goes onto their tuition bill isn't taxed. I think the 50-50 is working well for the majority."

But with the recent increase in pay for on-campus jobs, an hourly job is becoming more appealing to many students, including Broujos.

"Personally, because I have a lot going on outside of academics, I think an on-campus job would have been a better option for me," she said. "Residence Life deserves somebody that's able to give 100 percent"