How to Handle College and a Bad RA when Dorming

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What is an RA?

Almost every student who lives on campus will have an RA or Resident Assistant. This is a student who is usually at least second year full time student in college. They work part time, in addition to their own schooling, to help you adjust to living on campus. They usually arrive weeks early and train how to handle every possible situation from fires, to roommate conflicts, to suicide. They prepare the building for your arrival with goodies in your room, posters, and door tags. Their biggest job requirement is to make you feel at home and a part of the community. You should never be afraid to approach your RA at college.

Problems With Your RA That Can Be Fixed

Often times there are small confusions about what an RA portrays and what they actually mean. Here are a few common examples where RA’s unintentionally neglect students. In these cases try talking to your RA about it first before going to another person. You can talk to them directly or leave them a note.

They don’t answer the door.

Remember that RA’s have classes too, and may have other commitments or social activities outside of the residence halls. If you can’t seem to find a time they are there, leave them a note under their door or ask them to have a set time every week they are available to students.

They said something inappropriate.

Although RA’s are trained to be cautious of what they say and how they act, sometimes they get caught up in the moment and make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, even RAs. Be sure to approach them about it if they do or say something that bothers you. Often they didn’t even realize they were upsetting someone and will apologize right away.

You got in trouble by them.

All RA’s are instructed to uphold the same policies. These policies should be listed in a contract you signed, a handbook given to you, or some other written form. If you have a problem with any of the rules an RA is upholding, or believe an RA is upholding a rule that is unfair and isn’t in your contract, please contact the RA first. Tell them if you think the rule was unfair, or unclear, or even plain false. If this does not work, then it is appropriate to approach the Resident Director. This is a person who has graduated with at least a bachelor’s degree and has a little more authority, being the RA’s supervisor. This is the next person in line to help you in college when dealing with a bad RA.

When You Really have a Bad RA in College

In almost all cases, be sure to approach the RA about the situation first. A good RA will explain their actions or correct wrong ones. This is the appropriate first step in respect for the RA. If you feel uncomfortable talking with the RA for any reason, it is okay to skip this step and continue to the next one. In any case, talking to residents around you will not help the situation and could even make it worse. When in doubt, talk up not out.


Contact the other RA. In small matters such as needing paperwork signed, or non confrontational matters, it is okay to approach other RA’s in your hall or floor. It would be best not to approach these people about big problems with your RA, as they are in no authority to the RA. This might not help or even make a situation worse. The only exception to this is if you have a Senior Resident Assistant (SRA) in your building. They should be able to get you the help you need.

Step 2

Contact the RD (Resident Director) or GRD (graduate Resident Director). These people are in direct supervision of the RA’s and should be able to assist you with any problems. Don’t be afraid to approach these people either, as their jobs are to be there for you about college and bad RA’s. Be sure to explain the situation and express if you want to remain anonymous. Often, they will ask you if you have approached the RA themselves.

Step 3

99% of the time these steps will work for you and get your problem resolved, no matter what the issue. If you still encounter problems, you can approach the Area Coordinator, or Director of Housing. These people are available to help as well, but be sure to approach them only if necessary.

You can have a great year living in the residence halls now that you know what to do in college with a bad RA!