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Passive Programming

By Julia Weinig
Resident Assistant
Elizabethtown College


Resident Assistants have the difficult task of juggling academics, school, friends, and their fulltime position. Sometimes the importance of programming is lost in sitting duty, enforcing policy, and having meetings. Your residents might also become lost in their extra-curricular activities and academics; participating in hall programs seems unimportant compared to their other activities. Besides being busy, some residents appear apathetic towards the planned hall activities. As an R.A., you are still responsible to educate your residents on a variety of issues and concerns, even if active programming is not working. A way to program during the busiest points of the semester and reach all of the residents is through passive programming. Passive programs convey information in a logical, interesting format in which no active participation is necessary. Residents are able to absorb the information at their own pace. To have a successful passive program, one must follow the three P's format with: planning, presentation, and placement.


The preparation for a passive program is the most crucial step to make the program successful. You can gather information in a variety of ways to make an effective program. Going on the Internet can be a quick, easy way to obtain information, however, the sources are not always reliable. The virtual pamphlet collection has a variety of information on topics ranging from sexual assault to physical fitness. All the information is free and is collected from a plethora of college counseling centers. You can also collect pamphlets from your own college counseling center or career counseling center. Many non-profit organizations like the American Cancer Society or the Liquor Control Board will willingly provide free information for use in your hall. Also, for fun programs, use the "Forwards" that your friends send you and print them out. Make sure that the humor is not offensive to any sex, race, or ethnicity.


Now that you collected the information, you have to learn how to present the information in a logical, legible format. Even if you print out information from the computer, make sure that you do not simply hang up the printouts without making them look legible. For example, paste the paper to a piece of construction paper or highlight important points. Here are some other tips for making the information more presentable:

  • DO use monthly themes to present related material (Breast Cancer Awareness month, Black History month, Sexual Abuse Awareness month)
  • DON'T tape pamphlets up without putting them in a way that all information can be read
  • DO check the info to ensure the accuracy and timeliness
  • DO remain objective with the topics, present both sides of an issue
  • DO collect a variety of info (posters, pamphlets, printouts, etc.)


After all the information is compiled and sorted, you can now arrange the information in a place where it will be effective. Depending on your hall set-up, you might have a lounge or place on the hall that the residents convene. This area would be a prime place to put information, especially educational programs. If you do not have this lounge area (that is used), then place the passive program in a bathroom stall. When residents are using the bathroom, and the only information available to read is educational, most likely they will inadvertently learn something. After placement, you might want to add a "feedback board" to ensure that the residents are not offended by the information and that they have a chance to voice their own opinions about your program. When implemented correctly, passive programs can be even more effective than active programs since more educational information can be displayed. To close here are a few ideas that I have used in the past:

Passive Program Suggestions


  • Chat Boards
  • College Humor


  • Sexual Assault
  • Nutritional Eating
  • Eating Disorders

Service Learning:

  • Where to Volunteer
  • What Volunteering Can Do For You


  • Home for the Holidays
  • Long-Distance Relationships


  • What Careers Work for You?
  • Choosing a Major


  • How to Yoga
  • Guide to Meditation
  • Choosing a Church


  • Being a Successful Student
  • Time Management Skills


  • Disability Awareness
  • What It's Like to Be Different?

About the Author

Julia Weinig is a senior Occupational Therapy major and Human Service minor at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA. She is currently a third year R.A. on a freshmen interest hall.