Resident Assistants Face COVID-19 Scare On Front Lines


COVID-19 has been a growing outbreak since early January, sending many to leave their campuses and into their homes. But for the Residential Assistances of Mercy College, the process has been nothing short of complex.

The virus has moved quickly in the past two months by spreading internationally and causing great fear to a high population of people across the world. Demands were enforced throughout the United States of staying inside the homes and the cancellation of schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many universities and college campuses took action by canceling in-person classes and sending all their residents home.

Last Tuesday night, March 10, President Tim Hall announced the closure of the Mercy College campus and moving forward with online classes until spring break due to COVID-19. When this COVID-19 email was sent to the Mercy community, many students fled the Dobbs Ferry campus without hesitation.

Students were concerned about their safety and received constant calls from their parents. Parents immediately picked up their children the next day, leaving Mercy College as a ghost town. It left Mercy College with a quarter of the resident population present at the campus grounds, including staff members of the Residential Life community.

Residential Life includes 15 Resident Assistant student workers, who live and work at the residential dorms at Mercy College. These 15 students could not make the same decision as residents did. Resident assistants still had the obligation to be presented on campus until a decision was made from the supervisors of whether they would be relieved from their responsibilities.

Many resident assistants found it very difficult to process staying on campus while their own residents had the chance to leave and be safe at home with their loved ones.

“Our bosses always tell us we’re students first. I didn’t understand how they could say every other student can leave, but we had to stay. It felt like they didn’t care about us,” explained senior Briyanna Hutchinson.

RAs live a double life: a student and a staff member of the college.

“We sacrifice ourselves for a job that was not willing to sacrifice for us,” continues Hutchinson.

“I am considered as an employee, but I am a student first so I should be treated accordingly,” says Omotola Emmanual.

Felipe Henao answered multiple questions from different RAs regarding their duties. The answers to all their questions stood the same. “Campus is still open, you must be here. More meetings are happening, anything can change but, we have to wait,” said Henao.

The duty continued to stand for anyone who was scheduled for the rest of the week. If RAs were not on duty, they had the chance to leave campus but had to come back for the days they were on duty. The responsibilities of RAs were not dismissed. However, with new information coming onto the board, things slowly came together for a final decision.

Emails were exchanged constantly to see if the decision of RAs staying on campus would change. Resident Assistant Najja Beaulieu-Hains checked in with her staff members of the Founders Building frequently if there were any changes.

“We received word from President Hall and the VP that all resident employees had to stay because residential halls were still open,” explains Beaulieu-Hains.

Having 15 RAs present on campus was a great idea. For the reason to help evacuate students, however, the risk of exposure to the virus was extreme.

“It took time for (Mercy College) to figure out if and how the residential dorms were going to operate without RAs,” continued Beaulieu-Hains.

Mercy College was figuring out a plan to move whether to forward with the RAs to stay on campus as a decision. Things changed so rapidly due to the seriousness of the virus. More and more emails were sent about new information about members of the Mercy community being exposed to the virus. Mercy College did what was best for the safety of its students and staff members.

RAs finally received the news of being relieved from all their duties and responsibilities as an RA. The wait for updated information brought joy and comfort to many RAs when they heard the news.

“It feels good to be relieved from our responsibilities. Now I have more time to focus on my studies,” says Darius Tomlinson.

The pressure of RA duties is a weight lifted off from the backs of all these 15 students, most say. The time to focus on studies, focus on their own health, and stay safe with their loved ones was their biggest relief.

“I am at my girlfriend’s house. We both focused on our online classes, working out in the living room and watch Netflix. It was a relief when I heard the news as I felt worried about my safety,” says Antonio Solon.

However, many RAss stayed on campus because of not having a chance to return to their homes. Many live far from the campus, and others support themselves. Tomlinson is one RA who doesn’t have the option to go home and had no choice but to stay. The life on campus for this young man comprises staying in his room, working on his studies and having the advantage to receive food from the café.

“It is silent and lonely. Most of my residents left already. But I am glad Mercy is helping students who don’t have the option to go home like me. We can stay on campus and that is a relief.”