The responsibilities of resident assistants at Ohio University have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and, despite OU reopening its campus to students, this semester is no different.
According to a previous Post report, all students, staff and faculty are required to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, including in the hallways and bathrooms of residence halls. Resident assistants are expected to enforce the mask mandate as part of their job.
“Most people came into this year thinking that, ‘Hey, it's gonna be no mask mandate anymore. Everybody now has the vaccine who wants to vaccine. It's just gonna be an easier time,’” Sedric Granger, a sophomore studying journalism and resident assistant in Bryan Hall, said. “But when we got that mask mandate, it was already like, ‘Oh, my gosh, our challenge is going to get a lot more difficult.’”
Granger emphasized the warnings of upperclassmen who had worked as resident assistants previously. They told him and others to be prepared to “really enforce” a mask mandate, he said. Additionally, Granger said he has been impressed by his section of Bryan Hall, saying there has been a low number of COVID-19 cases.
However, that is not the experience for other buildings and resident assistants. Ben Chupp, a senior studying aviation flight who is working as a resident assistant in Sowle Hall, said he and other resident assistants in the building are tired of warning residents to wear masks and have started to write up students who do not follow the mask guidelines.
“Lately, after the emails warning people that we're going to start writing people up, they have been doing better,” Chupp said.
Due to a high number of residents neglecting to wear masks in common areas since the semester began, multiple halls have received emails stating residents will be written up without warning, should they be caught without a mask.
According to an email a senior resident assistant sent to residents living in Boyd and Treudley halls, students were told they would be reported to the Office of Community Standards if they did not respect the guidelines. The email also stated, due to mask requirements having been in place for over a year, “wearing a mask is not a new concept, and therefore excuses as to not doing so are slowly becoming null and void.”
Tara Theaker, a sophomore studying psychology who is working as a resident assistant in Jefferson Hall, cited similar issues within her building. There are often people not wearing masks, she said.
Theaker tells them to either put a mask on or pull theirs up, and some listen while others ignore the request altogether. She added that when a resident is written up in violation of the mask mandate, it is a COVID-19 incident report.
Wearing a mask is not the only COVID-19-related rule campus residents must respect. Residents must also abide by rules regarding the number of guests allowed in their room.
“If you have two people in a room, they have two beds. They can have four people come and visit,” Granger said. “If you're only in one single room, you only have one bed in the room … you're only allowed to have two guests.”
Granger said that rule can be an unfortunate one for those with large friend groups, but he believes it plays an important role in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Guests have not been an issue thus far in Sowle Hall, Chupp said. However, he acknowledged it is still early in the semester and said should any issues arise in the future, they will be addressed.
“We've had normal amounts of people … in other people's rooms. The only issue is, a lot of the time, they like to gather in the hallway,” Theaker said. “Sometimes, I'll be going in the hallway, and there's a group of 10 people just crammed in the hallway, and they're not wearing their mask. And I'm like, ‘Either go to your room or put your mask on,’ and they usually have an attitude.”
With the announcement of OU’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement, there is a possibility for these policies to shift. Thus far, resident assistants have not been told of any upcoming changes.
“I feel with the vaccination requirement now being a part of campus, I feel that ... can really help decrease the spread of COVID, and then also just lower the cases to a point where … we can be able to be back to almost normal or what we were before,” Granger said. “I'm really hoping to see that from a personal standpoint and just for our residents, too. I know everybody wants to have face-to-face interaction, and a lot of people want to have that in-person class experience.”