Leatherneck Connections: What students need to know

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Leatherneck Connections: What students need to know

Editorial Board

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Recently the Western Courier obtained documents that detailed a program that requires resident assistants to gather information from their residents.This program is called “Leatherneck Connections.”

The administration stands by this policy and claims this pro- gram has existed for at least seven years. The University administrators have also clearly stated to the Western Courier that this program will, in fact, help aid the falling retention rate.

Some information that the RAs are gathering is required to be reported. For instance, if a student tells an RA that he/she is contemplating suicide, that RA is required by law to report the incident. According to Residence Life Director Tera Monroe, students in these circumstances should be told by their RAs that their conversation has to be reported.But, the problem with this program is that RAs are gathering information that they are not always legally bound to report, and it appears students may be unaware that some of their interactions with their RAs are being documented.

The detailed program guide includes a long list of information RAs should gather, such as which students have jobs and which students are homesick, and as far as we can tell, most RAs are not asking permission to report this information to their supervisors.They are also required to create “community sociograms,” or a map of the floor with names attached to each room. Symbols are then drawn next to each name to represent everything from drug addiction to the resident’s relationship status.

We understand the plight of the University and the need to stabilize the retention rate. Retention is a problem that desperately needs to be fixed in order for the University to stay afloat; however, this is no excuse to secretly gather information about students.There needs to be communication between residents and their RAs concerning the type of information that is gathered about them. It is as simple as that. RAs are in place to make students feel more comfortable. They serve as community leaders for students living in the dorms, but they should not be used by anyone in the administration to gather personal information.

So, what is the role of an RA? Clearly the administration views them as University staff members, and clearly, not all students view them in this same light.RAs act as friends and disciplinarians. RAs are viewed as friends or peers more often then other university staff, such as teachers. Most likely, students will readily share information with them, and therefore, students need to be told beforehand that their personal conversations are being passed along.

Students should be told by the RAs at the beginning of each semester what information they will be passing on and what information will be documented. Additionally, RAs should not be forced to with- hold information or be contractually forbidden to talk to the press.

Retention rates will only continue to fall if students lose important mentors that make them feel welcomed and at home.