I am a freshman RA on the 10th floor of Emerson, but currently rooming with a culinary student, a pro-skater repped by Supreme, one cat, a parakeet and a tarantula named Angel. I am not, in fact, living in Emerson; ResLife only allows emotional support animals, and I don’t think a spider would make the cut. I, like so many others, endured a whirlwind two weeks of apartment hunting and headaches before finding a good deal on rent in New York City. I may have five roommates, but only two of them actively contribute to the electric bill!
Besides spending the last two weeks of August begging my current property manager to agree to a four month lease, I devoted this past summer to the Pratt Connectors program. This is a system designed to help transition new students into their new life at Pratt and in New York City. I sent countless emails answering orientation questions, offering favorite study spots/places to eat around campus and building great expectations, only to have them come crashing down with the decision to close campus housing. Since President Bronet’s decision to close the dorms, both my classes and residents have moved online, and I am left trying to build a sense of community for freshmen in a world where everyone is socially distanced.
Reflecting back on my own freshman year, I remember my RA knocking on my door asking me to “please come out to a mandatory social,” in the dark hallway, complete with a flavor variety of BoomChickaPop popcorn. Unfortunately for freshmen today, they’re forced to click on an email link and buy their own snacks if they want to “come into the hallway.” There’s no in-person interaction, and, being in a new environment, they don’t necessarily know anyone in their classes.
My position as student and staff means that I am not only responsible for myself, but for the well-being of my residents as well. The main difference between me and every other student drawn in by StreetEasy’s sexy subway advertisements is that this semester is not just about me because I’ve continued with my position as an RA.
ResLife and Housing is still holding “socials” and events, but they’re now completely online. We’ve planned a couple of movie nights and club meetings, and have set up new social media pages to help students regain what they’ve been missing since March: a sense of hope and belonging. In addition, future plans to reopen campus are being made for spring 2021, while the transition back to in-person living remains a hot topic at staff meetings.
The position of Virtual RA, or RA@Home, is new to everyone. The idea behind this ResLife masterpiece is to connect students and floor communities while they’re socially distancing over Zoom. If you receive an email from your RA, they’re not a robot! Our names are not Alexa or Siri!
It’s been so long since I first heard of the housing crisis while shopping for dorm decorations in HomeGoods, since email after email blew up my inbox asking me for advice when I had none to give. Fast-forward one month, and it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if Pratt hadn’t made the decision to close the dormitory doors. Would we be facing the same predicaments as schools such as UNC and Notre Dame, who have opened without proper precaution and are now closed or subject to quarantining? Or is the conviction of both Mayor De Blasio and Governor Cuomo so strong that Pratt may have taken these precautions in vain?
Luckily we attend an art school, where everyone has gotten creative with their work situations and ways to stay connected with each other. I’d hate to think that my work up to this point has been in vain.
Art by Catherine Massa