Residence Life clears up rumors on RA replacements

Kirstin Cook, Editor-in-Chief

Two Resident Assistants were removed from their positions at Evans Hall, leaving some students wondering why.

Residents on the third floor of Evans said they wondered why they had two new RAs on their floor this semester. Two freshmen students told The Beacon they were confused over the reasoning.

Amber Konopka and Ike Egbuchulam confirmed that they had been replaced as RAs this semester. They cited personal conflicts as the reason, clearing up some of the confusion revolving around the staff changes.

While she couldn’t discuss specifics about the student issues, director of Residence Life Liz Swantek said she had heard rumors from students about the cause of the replacements. Some of them concerned infringement of alcohol laws by RA staff members, but she said there were no reports on that last semester.

“We didn’t hear any of that information,” Swantek said. “I’ve heard similar circumstances and students saying things but that is not at all what we need to talk about right now nor something that we talked about last semester with our RAs.”

Swantek said if there had been reports, they would have been sent to Public Safety and included in their reports required by the Cleary Act. She said there is a stream of information between the two offices.

“Anything that comes through our office goes to Public Safety, anything that goes to Public Safety comes to our office,” Swantek said.

Mark Allen, dean of Student Affairs, restated that reports of illegal campus activity are processed by Public Safety.

“Everything would be funneled through our office and we work with Public Safety with respect to we don’t harbor any illegal activity on campus,” Allen said.

He also added that he was not aware of any alcohol violations by RAs.

“I would be surprised if I wasn’t aware of any direct reporting of those incidents,” Allen said.

Swantek said incidents like distributing alcohol to minors was not a factor in any staff changes that were made. She said staffing adjustments are common every semester and caused by a variety of reasons.

“Staff changes have occurred every year since I’ve been here,” Swantek said. “People can leave for various reasons. Students can leave maybe because the RA position wasn’t a good fit for them.”

The changes this semester involved the replacement of Konopka and Egbuchulam with Trey Tietz and Samantha Blincoe. Konopka said the cause was personal reasons, but Egbuchulam explained there were some differences with RA policies.

He said Residence Life brought up violations of the 2 a.m. RA curfew.

He also said Residence Life stated concerns that he and Konopka were in more of a friend relationship with their residents than an authority one.

Egbuchulam said Residence Life offered to keep him in his position and attempt to work through these issues, but he preferred to move on.

In making these types of staff adjustments, Swantek said that Residence Life considers feedback from RAs and residents in the form of meetings and surveys.

“For the most part, it’s really positive,” Swantek said. “There are a couple things we need to work on and we do that based on those survey results.”

Changes are based on who they think will be a good fit in the living environment.

“All are in the best interests of whatever the unique needs are of the RAs involved and certainly what’s in the best interest of the program and our resident students,” Allen said.

Feedback on RAs may also come in the form of reports. Swantek said students can direct any concerns with RAs to her office. Any allegations are followed up with a process established by the Wilkes handbook requiring students to meet their accusers, individual meetings with Residence Life, an investigation into the situation or conduct and opportunity to deny or appeal accusations.

Swantek insists that this protocol is the same for every student, whether they are an RA or not.

“All students are dealt with to the same capacity,” Swantek said.

RAs who feel they have been treated unfairly can contact Student Services, but Konopka and Egbuchulam said that was not a concern in their situations.

To avoid any type of reports and disciplinary actions, Swantek encourages RAs to be good role models for the university.

“It’s very easy to find out information and we always speak to our RAs just about that fishbowl philosophy and about how students know who you are, so anything you do does affect our staff and the team as a whole, so I think that’s really the approach we take,” Swantek said.

And for the most part, Allen said they do not encounter issues, despite significant difficulty and pressure that comes with the job.