University of Toronto at Scarborough, Not Your Typical Work Field

Universities and colleges around North America are commonly known to be party hubs, a place for teenagers and young adults alike to celebrate through whatever means necessary while working to fulfill the rest of their lives.

Many students graduate from secondary school and move on to their post secondary education with two things in mind: what they want to be when they graduate, and when the next party is. So how does this bode for the students who work as Residence Advisors (Ra’s) who have to interfere with these parties?

The RA’s at UTSC have the esteemed honour of representing the top school in Canada, and the 17th best in the world in The Higher Education’s 2010 ranking. It is the duty of an RA to make sure that students don’t party too hard andor breach the rules and regulations of residence at UTSC.  It is their duty to uphold the University of Toronto’s reverence, to many a student’s dismay.

“Obviously you feel bad because you are the one who ruins their fun. It’s tough but it’s part of the job,” Robin Vigouroux said in an interview Tuesday, a first time RA at the UTSC campus.

Vigouroux came from France three years ago to study neuro-science, and he too had the same ideology as many students before him.

“In first year you just want to have fun, but the RA’s seem like they’re looking for trouble. I find it weird because now I tell people what RA’s used to tell me,” Vigouroux said.

However, in defence to what may sound like a minor injustice, Vigouroux knows that it’s part of the job description in making sure students are safe and in accordance with the law. This comes as no easy task, though, as the RA’s at UTSC tackle a lengthy daily routine.

When quiet hours on campus begin at 10:00 p.m. (on weekdays) and 12:00 a.m. (on weekends), the RA’s begin their rounds. Rounds entail walking by every house on south residence, north residence, and Foley Hall, twice. RA’s must ensure that all regulations are followed, but most importantly that noise doesn’t exceed an unreasonable limit past quiet hours.

These guidelines represent a small portion of the list on UTSC’s residence pamphlet, which features four pages of rules alone; quite the task for a freshman expecting to party to follow.

Vigouroux noted that he and his fellow colleagues often give out warnings or break up parties, especially on weekends.  Warnings for volume, underage drinking, and other violations are given out during the first round, and if students are still rowdy then the parties are shut down and disciplinary actions may be administered.

Some students are in opposition with this method.

It’s frustrating when I’m having a birthday party with a bunch of friends and I’m being warned to control the volume. It’s difficult to have fun sometimes, especially when there’s the possibility of being written up,” Joe Bettridge said, a fourth year student at UTSC

In an interview with Residence and Life Co-ordinator Mike Plumton Thursday, he spoke about his role in overseeing the RA’s and utilizing discipline with the students.

“Most times students get it, they get that they messed up and they made a bad choice,” Plumton said when discussing why he doesn’t normally like to evict people from campus.

“We allow people to own up for their mistakes. They can come in and write here’s what I did, here’s what I learned from it and how I’m a positive community member. It’s kind of like a written contract saying ‘this won’t happen again’” Plumton said.

However, eviction is only a possibility after students breach a guideline on the list of level 4 offences, the last level on the list. A level 4 offence is listed as being an “action that seriously endangers individuals and/or the community or contravene any municipal, provincial, or federal laws.”

While Plumton added that there has been no recent cases, he noted that there has been situations in the past that have resulted in an eviction.

The most recent situation involving a student was a breach of a level 3 offence, when an RA taking care of a student inebriated from large amounts of alcohol noticed that the student had blacked out. After notifying campus police, the anonymous student was sent to the ICU overnight in order to be stomach pumped.

The surrealism of these situations dawns on the RA’s from time to time, as they realize that the students they watch over are usually the same age as them. But the gravity of the situations may be rewarding as well.

“At time it’s a process that makes me feel much older than I am, but at the same time it makes me feel like I can help people which gives me a heightened sense of responsibility,” Saquib Rashid said over email on Wednesday.

Rashid is an Area Co-ordinator at UTSC, a job in between the RA and the RLC, and one that comes with its fair share of responsibility. At just 21, Rashid oversees the RA’s and reports to Plumton, but must also be present at any situation that is potentially dangerous.

UTSC’s stricter policies come as no surprise to Rashid and Plumton. The two explain that the UTSC’s suite method on campus provides for a much different environment than most schools, which normally utilizes the dorm method.

When student’s or friends compare UTSC to schools known for their leniency when it comes to partying, Plumton describes that students at UTSC inherit more responsibility when they arrive.

“Because the housing at UTSC is in the form of townhouses and suites, living here requires more rules and responsibility. We have to maintain the community feeling and ensure our campus remains safe and everyone follows the law,” Plumton said.

These added rules and responsibility for the students is where the extra workload for the RA’s come in. Being an RA at UTSC is noticeably different from other schools, and the heavier work load makes the job an odd one for a teenager or young adult.

However, it is but a small price to pay for both students and RA’s when attending Canada’s number one school.

By: Kyle Larkin

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