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Survey Finds RLA Program is Success

By Brian Loux

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

A survey conducted by the Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs has concluded that the pilot Residential Life Associate program has performed well in its first three months.

The survey took detailed opinions of housemasters, graduate residence tutors, and RLAs themselves. Katherine G. O’Dair, assistant dean of residential programs, said that the survey identified a need to clarify the role of the RLA and how they balance power with the housemasters, graduate resident tutors, and medical support.

The administration plans to address these issues in depth over IAP and spring semester and target dorm specific issues. “There will be some confusion of roles,” said O’Dair, “but that’s to be expected with the situation.”

“It’s very important to remember that we are only three months into the program,” she said. “Three of the four RLAs are entirely new and are learning the cultures of their zones. A good part of their time was taken up learning about that.”

“[The RLA program] is an entirely new thing to campus,” said McCormick Housemaster Charles Stewart. “Right now I think they’re trying to figure out a best way to be helpful on an unusual campus like MIT’s. I think they’ll do more later.”

O’Dair said that the RLSLP was working on a plan to get a large volume of student feedback. “Our thinking was that students wouldn’t have time to respond right now as finals pressure increases,” she said. “We are hoping to get their responses next semester.”

Dorm governments and the administration were quick to compliment the RLAs for assisting their endeavors. “They’ve been really involved in advising the freshmen and assisting the smaller programs around the dorm,” said Next House treasurer Vikram Maheshri ’03.

Maheshri said that the RLAs act only in instances where the administration has acted in the past. “They leave the house government to the students. They coordinate the advising events and study breaks, but do not do so much with [purely] social events,” he said.

Next House GRT Youngmoo Kim G was pleased with the work of his dorm’s RLA, Aaradhana K. Prajapati. “GRTs have work to do and are as busy as any student. The RLA’s entire job is to help the students,” he said. “She has been very useful and a helpful resource that takes the burden off the tutors, but ... she’s more of a resource than a counselor.”

Some students were not familiar with the RLA program. “To be honest I am not sure if Prajapati is often here,” said Smitha Raghunathan ’05.

O’Dair said that the extent of RLA involvement depends on the individual and the dorms. In family dorms like Eastgate, RLA Gabrielle Pardo has taken on a much more active role due to the lack of a housemaster, she said.

However, in dorms with pre-existing housemasters and GRTs, the RLA’s role may be more oriented towards administrative support. “One thing we didn’t want was to have the RLAs walking the hallways,” said O’Dair. “We made sure the RLAs did not walk into the houses uninvited.”