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Resident Advisors are concerned about interacting virtually with their residents this fall due to social distancing practices.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Resident Advisors are worried about their limited abilities to connect with their advisees through virtual fall programming and of the enforcement of Penn's COVID-19 health regulations when students return to campus in two months.

RA and Graduate Associate training, orientation, and future programming will proceed virtually this year, according to an email from College Houses and Academic Services sent to RAGAs on July 2. The earliest move-in date for RAGAs will be Aug. 19. 

A first-time Quad RA in the College said they believe it is unlikely RAGAs will be able to interact closely with their residents because of limitations on in-person programming. RAGAs are advised to develop an alternative sense of community since past bonding events such as field trips, movies, and cooking are not possible due to coronavirus social distancing restrictions, according to the CHAS 'RAGA fall 2020 FAQs' page.

Students and RAGAs must follow the guidelines of the Student Campus Compact if returning to campus, CHAS Faculty Director Lisa Lewis wrote in a July 16 email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Any violations of the Student Campus Compact — which requires all students, faculty, and staff to wear facial coverings in public, practice physical distancing measures, and avoid large gatherings of 25 or more people — will be inspected by the Compact Review Panel.

Rising Engineering junior Lynn Ahrens and first-time Lauder College House RA said she is specifically concerned about the risk of increased transmission that comes with travel.

“I feel kind of weird about people coming back to campus from potentially all over the world and the country and having people that are potentially asymptomatic walking around and maybe spreading COVID-19,” Ahrens said.

Credit: Seavmeiyin Kun A kitchen in WEB Du Bois College House. RAGAs will not be allowed to cook with their residents because of social distancing restrictions.

Facilities and Real Estate Services will enforce the University’s policy for a maximum ratio of six students per one shared bathroom, according to the FAQ page. FRES plans to assemble temporary partitions so that students follow this rule. 

Lewis wrote that RAGAs and on-campus residents will be housed according to recommendations by the University's Recovery Planning Group, which is determining how Penn can operate safely amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Quad RA believes that Penn might open unused floors within the Quad to accommodate for social distancing practices, according to a conversation they had with CHAS personnel. CHAS did not confirm or deny this possibility to the DP. 

“I’m concerned that we are not going to be supported by CHAS. I’m concerned that RAs are going to become the police of social distancing,” the Quad RA said. “I’m worried that instead of being a Residential Advisor we are going to be seen as not quite law enforcement but a group of people that are more interesting in ensuring that people are socially distanced.” 

CHAS guarantees that the University's twelve college houses will be open for the fall semester, according to the FAQ, and RAGAs' assignments and living arrangements have been posted on Campus Express but may change. Multiple RAs confirm that their on-campus housing plans have not been compromised, despite the modified fall semester schedule. 

“I think there are going to be quite a few [challenges], a first-year RA and rising College junior said. “Obviously, the first is going to be helping the freshman adjust to college and helping them work through the added stress of everything being virtual and not being able to socialize as much.”  

As of now, RAGAs have not received news about any changes to their meal plans, multiple RAGAs said. They will receive more information about meal allocation on Aug. 3, according to the FAQ, and all on-campus dining options will be grab-and-go meals in the upcoming semester as Penn announced last month. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to challenge us in ways we have not previously experienced. We all have a responsibility to our community to keep it safe,” Lewis wrote. “CHAS is prepared to work with our RAGAs and residents to do just that.”

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