Program protects resident privacy

Over the past year, AU Housing and Dining Programs has sought to implement a program that would encourage more interaction between resident assistants and their residents in order to hear their experiences at AU while not invading students' privacy.

In January, Intentional Interactions replaced EagleEye as a program to increase contact between the two groups.

When information about the Housing and Dining's EagleEye program leaked in mid-September, some students said they were alarmed by the seeming lack of privacy it generated, especially if RAs were able to talk to resident directors about certain individuals they were worried about.

After numerous student complaints, Housing and Dining Executive Director Chris Moody decided to not approve the program, and Director of Residence Life Rick Treter had to go back to the drawing board.

The new program, which Housing and Dining internally refers to as Intentional Interactions, is "the best part of EagleEye," according to Treter.

"A version of [EagleEye] has been redrafted to remove any types of concern about invasion of privacy [or] storage of student information, to be a guide for RAs in helping to have conversations with their students," Moody said.

Intentional Interactions is a tool for RAs to have increased relations and conversations with the residents living on their floor, according to Treter. RAs are given lists and contact information for places to point their residents to if they have any questions or problems with any facet of student life. All on-campus residents, especially freshmen, are encouraged to schedule, but can opt-out of, one-on-one conversations with their RA.

Under EagleEye, each RA had a list of questions he or she could ask students about their AU experience. The RA was then required to log residents' answers and track trends across their floor.

Louise Brask, a freshman in the School of International Service, participated in EagleEye in the fall.

"Last semester, when I was first interviewed by my RA, I was a little taken aback that they had been writing everything down," she said. "It seemed very forced and very unnatural."

Suggested questions for Intentional Interactions are the same as they were for EagleEye, Treter said. The main difference is that there will not be any information tracking.

"The focus of EagleEye became learning about students," Moody said. "But that wasn't what it was designed to do. It was designed to give the RA resources to give back to the student, and so I think all the conversations that happened in the fall about EagleEye were really productive because it helped to re-focus the goal on giving RAs resources to help residents."

EagleEye was not meant to be an invasion of privacy, Treter said.

"It was not my intention from the beginning for it to be anything that was intrusive into somebody's private area," he said. "That's not my goal and that's not something that I want."

The problem with EagleEye was the mandatory reporting of all residents, according to an RA in a North side residence hall who asked to not be identified.

"RAs are already encouraged to bring any problems they see on their floor to the RDs," the RA said. "But making a mandatory reporting database of all residents and their reactions to our questions was not a good idea."

The RA said he or she partially follows Intentional Interactions. The RA does not use the questions provided by Housing and Dining, but instead said he or she tries to have meaningful conversations with his or her residents.

"I consider what I do to be the intent of Intentional Interactions," the RA said. "I do not press my residents for more information; I let them talk to me about how they are doing, and I try to assist them with any issues or problems they are having."

The goal of Intentional Interactions is for students to get to know their RAs better and for the RAs to give better guidance - not to screen for at-risk students, Treter said.

"We already have a mechanism in place for students at-risk to be identified," he said.

In the system, RAs talk to RDs about certain students they see as at-risk.

"In no way, shape or form was that program meant to ascertain those individuals," he said.

Housing and Dining wants RAs to be there for their residents if they need advice or simply want to talk - similar to the role of a University College program assistant, Moody said.

"I want students to understand that their RA is not just an enforcer of community standards, that they are not just there to police the floor," Treter said. "That their role is much larger than that, and what they are charged with is really making sure that students are getting connected to resources and that they are having a good residential experience at AU from the time that they're here."

Chris Dychala, a freshman in SIS, said he did not think Intentional Interactions was an invasion of privacy, but he would not utilize the one-on-ones with his RA.

"It feels like we're being babysat by the RAs and having this intentional mentor just to make sure students are OK, I don't really think it's something that's necessary," Dychala said.

Intentional Interactions is better in increasing basic communication between students and RAs, Brask said.

"I probably would have done it at the beginning of the year to get to know my RA better," she said.

You can reach this staff writer at thallerman@theeagleonline.com.

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