Mid-fall semester marks the start of housing season, when undergrads begin the chaotic search for roommates, floor plans and affordable housing in the Austin area.
After their freshman year, those who live in the University dorms have the option to apply for a resident assistant position. The position allows them to work a job on campus, connect with students on their floor and slash their cost of living as housing expenses are covered by the University.
While the RA position creates an ideal living scenario for many students, University Housing and Dining currently lacks a set date by which to inform RA candidates of their application decision. This leaves students in the dark regarding whether they have a guaranteed space to live next semester and sets them behind in the race for dorm applications and apartment leases.
UHD needs to create a specific timeline for potential RA candidates that lets them know exactly when they will hear back regarding whether or not they got the position. Additionally, this decision needs to be made as early in the fall as possible to give students adequate time to make alternate housing decisions.
Neuroscience and economics freshman Ethan Lawler applied to the RA position to help offset the bills for college that he’s shouldering himself, but the long wait for UHD’s decision is limiting his other housing options.
“I’m in a fraternity, and they’re looking right now for active members to fill slots in the house,” Lawler said. “It’s a pretty big time crunch with whatever the RA decision may be. It’s imperative that I have the decisions back as soon as they can.”
Waiting for an unclear result release date leaves students in unnecessary limbo. Throughout the fall semester they are left worried about backup housing and must face the stress of not knowing when a major decision affecting their next year of college will be shared with them.
JD Castro, assistant director for residence life at UHD, walked me through the extensive RA selection process, which begins with advertising after move in all the way through interviewing with current RAs.
“We did the RA interviews this year Nov. 6 and 7, so right now we’re trying to build their folder bios for HR and preparing that for our team to be able to do their selection process, which should be late November, early December,” Castro said.
While it’s clear that the RA selection process is well thought out and established, the entire process functions on a goal-oriented timeline rather than a series of concrete dates. Because of this process structure, when one element of work slips up the entire process is set back which negatively affects prospective student plans.
“We give ourselves that grace in case something comes up,” Castro said. “If we give a concrete date, there can be no room for error because then we’ll have a lot of people following up to say that you told us this date, why hasn’t it happened.”
But a concrete date is exactly what needs to happen. Students and their families place immense trust, financially and planning wise, in UHD leadership, and a process that holds so much influence on an entire year of college education deserves to be held accountable.
UHD publicly advertises their openness to student feedback, and thus must be willing to change their practices for the benefit of students’ future housing plans and peace of mind. Craft a schedule, stick to it and prioritize the futures of all students — not just those that make the RA cut.
Costello is a neuroscience freshman from Boerne, TX.