Let me clarify: since RAs are hired only for one year, I was technically “not rehired.” (Though, it should be noted, I was never sent a reapplication form.)
Last year, the Office of Residential Life began enforcing a policy that prohibits RAs from studying abroad.
My decision to study in South Africa last spring, therefore, led to my “non-rehire.”
While I understand Residential Life’s concerns regarding RAs studying abroad (maintaining consistency and stability in residential halls, namely), the current policy does not serve the university’s mission. The Jesuit principle of cura personalis (“care for the whole person”) calls on Fordham to care for all students — including RAs — holistically. The Office of Residential Life’s current policy barring RAs from studying abroad during the academic year is inconsistent with this mission.
Many other institutions do not share Fordham’s policy. Barnard College, for example, operates on a model in which first-year RAs cannot study abroad, but returning RAs are permitted. A number of other institutions simply ask RAs whether or not they plan to study abroad when they apply.
Fairfield University, a fellow Jesuit institution, is one of many schools that has no prohibition on RAs studying abroad.
“Yes, students can apply to be an RA for one semester and will have the opportunity to re-apply the following year,” Fairfield’s website reads.
In fact, even Fordham has not always prohibited RAs from studying abroad. When I was hired my sophomore year, no such policy was enforced. In the past, RAs who have studied abroad have been rehired.
When I met with the Office of Residential Life last year to express my intentions to study abroad and my concerns with their policy prohibiting it, I was told that they understood my choice, but I needed to understand the “consequences” of that choice.
In other words, Res Life’s policy is to punish RAs who choose to study abroad. Does that sound Jesuit to you?
The Office of Residential Life’s mission statement states, “Committed to the Jesuit ideal of educating the whole person, staff members empower residents to respect each other as individuals, seek new experiences, and take an active and creative role in shaping their living environments.”
RAs also are repeatedly told during training that they are “students first and RAs second.”
If Res Life abided by either of those two philosophies, it would not cast a blanket ban on RAs studying abroad. Those statements look great on paper, but they would look even better in practice.