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Dear Freshmen: Please Use Your Head this Fall

A plea from your RA: I want to be cool, I want to make up for you missing your graduation, so please don't make me miss mine.

Photo: Instagram @artchanning

When I accepted a job as an RA going into my junior year, I accepted the certified nark label along with it. But in general, I like to think I’m a “cool RA.” That title is proving hard to keep in the middle of a pandemic.

But I’ll gladly sacrifice my “cool RA” status and put my angry eyes on with kids who laugh in my face about wearing a mask or partying in the dorms if it means getting to stay on campus – and maybe literally saving a life.

And sure, you might not get caught with 12 maskless people in your room, but if you’re the ones who start the spread of corona in our home away from home, do you really want that on your conscience?

I would normally give my freshmen residents the “I’m a college student too” speech at the beginning of the year: If we run into each other at a party or a bar, I’m 21 and allowed to be there and you really shouldn’t, but if you act like you don’t see me I’ll return the favor. We’re all here to learn but also to have fun and make as many memories as possible, and believe me when I say no RA likes writing people up. As long as you use your little freshmen brain (i.e., I can’t obviously see or smell anything), have a blast and I’m here if you need anything.

But when my corona-era senior year started, I was at a bit of a loss for words the first time I met all my residents. Somehow, I had to explain a ton of strict new policies, tell people to spread out and pull their mask up every 2 minutes like a robot, and still form a genuine human connection with them.

Listen, my heart breaks for this class of freshmen. These kids were robbed of their senior sports season or that final bow at a show, prom, graduation, and then spent six months cooped up inside. Upperclassmen are dealing with the no-party sanctions too – that’s a whole other rant – but at the end of the day sophomores and up already have their people.

Freshmen year drops teens into a weird environment with more freedom than ever, and forces them to make new friends for the first time since kindergarten in most cases. And now I have to tell them they can’t get too close to one another? That they can't see each others faces?

But the rules are harsh right now for a reason. Telling my residents to have fun responsibly isn’t just for the sake of keeping them out of trouble and saving me paperwork anymore, but with the entire student population in mind. If kids didn’t take rules seriously in the past, it was a one-night problem and they paid the price if they were caught and we all moved on. Now, it could mean the end of a big, risky experiment and proving all the skeptics about re-opening college doors right.

To my freshmen and freshmen across the country right now: I know it isn't just you who aren't following the rules, but you're the ones who don't fully understand the incredible college experience you're putting on the line before you even have a chance to live it.

I know it's hard. I know you just want to make friends. I hear you. I know you've probably heard this a thousand times by now, but nobody wants to go home. If you're choosing to make new friends by ignoring the rules, we're not going to be around school long enough for you to really spend time with them. And then we'll have to go through this all over again.

Join a club, go to events your college holds even if you think they're lame, Netflix party with your floor, get socially distanced coffee with that cute kid you can't stop looking at on your Zoom call. Form a late night study group and sit in 4 corners of a classroom and laugh and snack too much. There are ways to make friends without partying, I promise. And some of them are much more enjoyable than a sweaty frat basement that'll ruin your crisp white vans.

I promise you'll meet people here who will change your life and make you wonder how you were ever sad to leave your hometown - the right people will be the best friends you've ever had, even from a distance.

I want to be a cool RA. But I can’t do that if you don’t wear your damn mask and social distance. I’m doing my best to make sure you have a college experience that makes up for the fact that you missed out on graduation, so please don’t be the reason I miss out on mine.


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