By Ally Bolender
News Content Manager
The four residential assistants (RAs) who formed the committee have chosen to remain anonymous out of fear of losing their housing and jobs. The RAs featured in the following article will be listed as RA1 and RA2.
SAN MARCOS, Texas — The Texas State University Resident Assistant Organizational Committee (RAOC) released a petition and set of demands to the Department of Housing and Residential Life (DHRL) following increased responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was during (COVID-19) when things became a lot more serious and issues got to be pretty bad,” said RA1. “We felt that we were treated well by the department during the spring semester, but since coming back, our jobs have gotten a lot harder without the additional pay we were receiving in the spring.”
The RAs said that since COVID-19, they have been receiving new residents on little or short notice, they are not informed when students are placed under quarantine on their floor after being exposed to COVID-19 and are unsure in their job security if they were to be infected.
The RAs stressed that a large factor in making their jobs harder is the lack of communication between them and the DHRL.
“There’s been a ton of stuff that the department really ought to be telling us and letting us know what’s going on…” said RA1. “We find out some of these big things through posts on the internet, group chats and friendships instead of our bosses or from directors of our program.”
The RAOC compiled a list of demands which include hazard pay due to increased work, better treatment of staff, clarified procedures and increased transparency regarding quarantined residents, more training regarding COVID-19 procedures, consistent and accurate answers from DHRL, housing guarantees for COVID-19 positive RAs and better representation in the department in terms of decision-making.
The document created by the RAOC states that, “It is necessary to point out that the demands we make come not from a place of selfishness but from self-respect and wanting what will be best for the department and allow us to better do our jobs.”
The RAOC sent the DHRL the list of demands on October 20. However, they were not satisfied with the response that the DHRL provided in return.
“On Tuesday (October 20) they told us, with barely 24 to 48 hours of notice, that there would be (webinar) sessions Wednesday night and Thursday night,” said RA1. “They cancelled the Wednesday night session and we just had the Thursday night session.”
Instead of holding a zoom call, the DHRL hosted a webinar where the RAs were not able to see who attended and any input that an RA wanted to include had to be entered through a chat feature.
“We weren’t able to see what other people were messaging, what questions other people were putting into the chat…We were pretty unhappy with the responses that they did give.” said RA1. “They barely talked about the stuff we wanted to talk about.”
The RAOC is unsure if these webinars will be continued and have not heard back from DHRL regarding the cancelled webinar.
As of October 23, the committee holds about 60 RAs out of the estimated 200 RAs employed by Texas State University.
The DHRL cannot terminate or take adverse employment actions against any RAs or other workers based on these demands due to the National Labor Relations Act, but the RAOC still expressed concern and stated that many RAs did not join the committee out of fear of losing their job and housing.
“Every RA is afraid that this might result in our termination in one way or another,” said RA2. “When we get fired we’re given three days to move out.”
The RAOC formed a petition regarding their demands and grievances. As of October 29, the RAOC has collected 540 signatures.
The petition has been endorsed by the following organizations: Black Men United, College Democrats at Texas State, F1rst Bobcat Proud, Graduate Students Affairs Council, Hip Hop Congress, Interruptions, Latinas Unidas, LGBTeachers, Queer Cats, Student Community of Progressive Empowerment, Supporting Women in Political Science, Transcend, Texas State Employees Union-University Caucus (CWA 6186), Under Represented Student Advisory Council and Young Democratic Socialists of America at Texas State.
The DHRL informed the RAOC that a statement will be released on November 2 or earlier. KTSW News will continue to update this story.
Header image by Ally Bolender.