AMS Stands in Solidarity with UBC Residence Advisors

To UBC Student Housing and Community Services, UBC Residence Advisors, and UBC Residence Community,

On behalf of the AMS, we stand in solidarity with Residence Advisors and Residence Life Staff on the UBC Vancouver Campus in their mission to begin the collective bargaining process at UBC.

Over the years, Residence Advisors (RAs) have noted that there are issues with the turbulent nature of this work, compensation, lack of clarity around expectations, being that the place of labour is also a place of living. We want to honour the labour of student-staff and amplify their voices in these unprecedented circumstances. We would like to bring to light the working conditions in the COVID-19 context, in which residence advisors have been exposed to unsafe working conditions, being frontline workers during a pandemic. It is notable that these issues are not solely due to COVID-19, but have merely been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Firstly, we would like to address the unsafe working environment in which residence advisors are subject to, both pre-pandemic and currently. The advisor position has required work to be done of ensuring the safety of their residents, which often cause these student staff to be in unsafe situations themselves. Examples of this are lack of support by safety services such as campus security, and their misunderstanding of the advisor role. Creating a line for direct communication may be a fitting solution for this disconnect. As well, due to the roles of RAs being to enforce residence standards and following a system of reporting, this has led to them not feeling safe in their community and subject to verbal abuse, physical intimidation, and vandalism of their living space. There are currently no supports for this in place.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, residence advisors have had to deal with residents without masks throwing parties and deliberately going against government-issued restrictions. Part of the job description for RAs includes “Supporting Conduct & Residence Standards”, which is now intertwined with enforcing COVID restrictions at the expense of their own personal safety. The problem is that the policies and procedures of Student Housing & Hospitality Services should take into account the serious nature of a global pandemic and adjust them accordingly. In the case of throwing parties, especially by repeat offenders, that action should be met with the appropriate corrective action (i.e. eviction, relocating the offender). Finally, the current compensation does not include hazard pay, which may be worth considering due to the turbulent and physically unsafe nature of the job.

Residence Advisors have also had concerns around the lack of clarity around the job description and lack of transparency surrounding pay. This causes drastically different inequities around work expectations, overwork, and not being paid adequately for their labour – including a differential of amount of residents. This is compounded particularly within the pandemic context where a Residence Advisor’s incident reports may increase due to COVID infractions, or may be required to provide additional support to a resident.

There is an unequal distribution of labour amongst Residence Advisors despite having the same job description. In the same first year residence area community, some RAs have 45 residents and some have 22. In upper year, this can increase to 50 residents, vs 100 + residents. As residence advisors aim to give personalized supports through unit visits and RA chats, this results in an inequity in labour.

Similarly, these inequities are reinforced within the discrepancy between first year advising and upper year advising due to first year requiring meal plans and different costs of rooms. As the costs exceed their income, first year residence advisors find themselves unable to cover their costs and often having to work additional jobs because of the expenses caused by the RA job.

As student staff, residence advisors are required to be on duty for 9 hours between the hours of 8pm-7am that may require attending to medical emergencies, maintenance requests, noise, or parties. Student staff are not given the appropriate central support or enough training to deal with the variety of cases that may come up in residence, including sexual assault, suicidal ideation, and COVID-19 scares. This has manifested in a lack of support from campus security and management. We must also recognize residence advisors as workers and students that in addition to the required programming, that are also encumbered with emotional labour. This additional labour is not compensated – residence advisors must be compensated appropriately.

Program Resource Centre Advisors are residence staff who support residence advisors with programming, posters, and passives. However, just like residence advisors, they are severely under-compensated and overworked. While they are on par with the role of a senior advisor, they are not paid enough for their year-long contract. We are in support of the PRCAs starting the collective bargaining process with the RAs

To Student Housing and Community Services – this is a much needed move to truly recognize the labour of student staff at the University. Residence Advisors are a valuable part of the community building experience at UBC. We call upon the Student Housing and Community Services administration to begin bargaining with CUPE 116 for a first collective agreement for residence advisors, to compensate the labour of RAs fairly, and adopt the recommendations Residence Advisors have laid out to improve the residence life experience. To the UBC Residence Community, we urge you to support the move to unionize.

To the Residence Advisors, we support you in your vote and choice to unionize.