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Incoming resident advisers raise concerns over earlier move-in date, hazard pay

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A bench sits outside of Ehringhaus Residence Hall on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

Resident advisers will have earlier move-in and training dates and will be expected to engage with residents in person, according to emails sent by Carolina Housing to student staff.

Following UNC's announcement regarding the new Aug. 10 fall semester start date, Carolina Housing’s Senior Director for Residential Education J. Kala Bullett informed student staff that they will move in on July 24 and begin training shortly after.

In March, Carolina Housing terminated all student staff following the closure of campus residence halls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds co-signed a letter asking UNC to pay RAs through the semester. A week later, Carolina Housing informed student staff they would be receiving paid administrative leave through April 30.

Now, some incoming RAs are concerned about their new schedule and expectations. 

Connor Leeson, a rising junior and incoming RA, said he was supposed to meet with his community director and team in April to receive his housing assignment, but this meeting has still not happened. 

UNC Media Relations said in an email that Carolina Housing is committed to communicating housing assignments before training begins and will announce meetings with community teams and directors in the coming weeks.

Leeson said he believes RAs should receive hazard pay, as he feels their duties now carry an increased risk to health and safety.

“We’re going to be asked to do a lot more than RAs would typically be asked in a given year,” he said. “I think they’re acutely aware of the idea of hazard pay, but there hasn’t been any mention of that at all.”

Student workers asked Executive Director of Carolina Housing Allan Blattner, ResNET Program Director Lee Hyde and Bullett in a letter to advocate on behalf of student staff to secure hazard pay until the “public health crisis” is over or campus closes again. 

The letter has 16 signatures thus far, which are being withheld until at least 50 student workers have added their support to the letter.

When asked about hazard pay, UNC Media Relations said in an email that Carolina Housing will follow all future UNC System guidance on human resources policies that apply to student employees.

In a June 1 email, Bullett said Carolina Housing will implement mask-wearing and additional sanitation, and encourage physical distancing practices and virtual meetings. RAs will still be expected to check in residents, complete building rounds and operate community offices in person, the email said.

In a statement provided by UNC Media Relations, Blattner said Carolina Housing aims to provide staff the safest working conditions possible and is working with the University’s infectious disease experts and public health officials in designing their plans for fall 2020.

The University’s second summer session ends on July 28 and overlaps with Carolina Housing student staff move-in and training. 

A returning RA, who asked to remain anonymous due to future employment concerns, said this overlap can be stressful for staff, as moving could take away time from studying for finals.

“That bothered me in particular, because Carolina Housing always says to put school first before anything else, but in this case, it looks like they’re not really following that philosophy,” she said.

Carolina Housing is following up with RAs who have conflicts with move-in and training dates and will work closely to resolve any conflicts with summer school classes, UNC Media Relations said in an email.

Carolina Housing asked students to accept or decline their position for the academic year by June 8 after considering the new details of the plan. If students decline, Bullett said Carolina Housing would follow up with other housing options on campus.

“Please know that while we are working to adapt our practices to prioritize the safety and well-being of our student staff members and residents alike, we also want to ensure that you make the decision that you feel is right for you,” Bullett said in an email to Carolina Housing student staff. “If you are concerned about the expectations of your position, we understand and respect if you make the choice to decline your employment.”

James Odametey, a rising sophomore and incoming RA, said he is mostly frustrated by the lack of timely information he’s received from Carolina Housing.

“That’s honestly the worst part of it,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been getting a lot of information way too late.”

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