“RAs will not lose their positions”: OSL changes policies for “hot state” RAs after backlash
BY ERIN LYONS – After backlash from Syracuse University’s residential advisors, the Office of Student Living said they will not fire residential advisors from “hot states” who cannot arrive on campus by August 1st in order to begin a state-mandated 14-day self-quarantine.
During a Zoom meeting on July 17, Office of Student Living Assistant Director Ashley Veney first told RAs from states on the New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory they must arrive on campus by August 1st. Before the Office of Student Living revealed the new move-in date for RAs from “hot states”, every residential advisor was planning to return to campus by August 7. The new arrival date gave RAs from hot states just two weeks to change their travel plans.
Initially, those who could not return to campus in time were told that the Office of Student Living “will unfortunately not be able to have you serve as an RA this semester.”
In response to intense backlash from student residential advisors, the Office of Student Living appeared to modify this decision by July 18, less than 24 hours after the first Zoom meeting where the controversial policy was announced.
In an email to residential advisors, George Athanas, the Director of Residence Life, wrote that he would personally “work through potential options” with RAs from hot states who cannot return to campus by August 1.
The Office of Student Living further clarified their policy reversal in a Zoom meeting on July 19 and another email to RAs on July 22.
During the July 19 Zoom informational meeting with residential advisors, Athanas said RAs can arrive later than August 1 and self-quarantine in their dorm rooms if they have their own personal bathroom. If hot state RAs do not have a personal bathroom, they were told to contact Athanas.
In the July 22 email, the Office of Student Living confirmed they would not fire RAs who arrive late from states on Governor Cuomo’s list.
“RAs will not lose their positions if they cannot arrive by August 1,” Athanas wrote. “If you are coming from a “hot” state and cannot be here by August 1, please reach out to George. We will work with you to find a workable solution.”
It is unclear what the “solutions” will be, but the Office of Student Living was adamant in the email that they “will find pathways to quarantine for RAs” who cannot arrive by August 1.
The Office of Student Living said they will reimburse each hot state RA who must change travel arrangements, at up to $300 per RA.
Only RAs coming in from states on the COVID-19 Travel Advisory will have to self-quarantine for 14 days. RAs are not required to quarantine on campus and have the option of self-quarantining elsewhere, according to Athanas’s email.
RAs coming in from states that are not on the travel advisory are arriving by August 7. All training for RAs will be conducted virtually.
RAs from states not restricted by mandatory quarantine orders will not “be mixed” with other residential advisors or students from hot states. Hot state students and residential advisors can quarantine together, but the Office of Student Living does not have the numbers or specifics yet. Freshman and transfer students from hot states will arrive on August 2 to begin a quarantine on campus.