Each day as resident assistants, mentors, and professionals working within residence life, we are faced with difficult decisions that we must make. These decisions can be good, and they can be bad. It is up to us to evaluate the outcome of our choices and decide what kind of person those specific choices will make us. The sad thing, is that today, many times people think that as long as things look good and faultless on the outside, and situations go their way, then it is the right thing. I recently was faced with a situation in my job, which put me in a position where I was forced to make one of the toughest decisions of my life.
In many conversations with my boss we have discussed the fact that as a resident assistant I am there to help build community within my floor and to enforce university policy. We also discussed the importance of my roommates understanding every aspect of my job. Before getting my position last spring I asked two of my closest friends if they would like to live with me for our third year at Central. Both were very excited. I explained to them what living with an RA would entail and how it would be different then just living together under normal circumstances. At first they seemed very understanding. Then the dark storm rolled in.
We lived in a in a predominately freshman environment. My two upperclassmen roommates were a little less enthusiastic about it. I took quite a bit of time explaining how important my job was to me and that all the rules of the floor would apply to them regardless of the fact they were older and they were my friends. The situation was a little different in our hall because it is an alcohol and tobacco free environment. This means that no alcohol, under any circumstances, can be brought into the building at any time, whether you are of age or not. They understood policy and my reasoning behind enforcing it so strictly, or so I thought.
At first life together was good. We were happy to be seeing each other on a daily basis, thus making our friendship stronger. One weekend I took a few nights out. After arriving home, I sat on the couch with one of my roommates as she explained the events of her weekend. She shared that she had gone shopping with her mom and sister (our other roommate) and they had bought wine while out. She made it sound as though the wine was at her boyfriend’s apartment so I thought nothing more of it. Later a friend of mine came over to pick me up to go out to dinner. While taking some time to chat in the bedroom, my roommate’s boyfriend arrived. While they were talking she walked into the bedroom and picked up a large white plastic bag and went back into the living room with it. Moments later I heard the sound of bottles clinking and over heard her explaining the same characteristics about the wine to her boyfriend as she had done to me earlier that day. I became VERY suspicious. Hearing the bottles clinking gave me the thought that the wine could very easily be sitting in our living room at that very moment. After a bit of investigation, I was 98% sure that there was alcohol in my room. I had many decisions to make. Do I go tell my boss right then to cover my self in case someone had seen them walk into the building with the wine? Do I keep the whole incident to myself? Do I confront my roommates about the wine and tell no one else?
My work ethic poured over my conscious. I told my boss. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my entire life. As a college student, I was ratting out two of my best friends. As a resident assistant, I was doing my job. I was so angry with my friends for putting me in a position like that. I had been very clear with them on the rules. Because of the situation and my roommate’s violation of our University policy they were going to have to move out and live in a traditional environment somewhere on campus. Our policy clearly states that students, who live in alcohol free rooms, and wish to continue to do so, cannot drink in their rooms or at any other locations on or off campus. This also means that if any unopened alcohol containers are found in a room the same violations occur. These rules applied to them just as they applied to every other person on our campus.
The first few weeks after the situation occurred things were rough. They began telling their friend their side of the story and I was the ultimate “bad guy.” I received hate notes from my roommates and horrible emails from their friends. It was their opinion that I had made a bad decision. In their eyes I should have overlooked the alcohol and just let it go.
There were times during those rough few weeks after the incident occurred that I felt like life would be so much easier if I had just kept my mouth shut. But then again, I don’t know if I would have been able to live with myself if I had done that. Quite a large number of people hear my story and give me sideways glances about my decision. They see me as being selfish in the situation. But, if I had let this situation go and then someone found out that I had not addressed the alcohol, my consequences would have been far greater. I would have lost my job, and lost all the wonderful experiences that come with it. Also, because being a resident assistant helps aid in paying for room and board, I am almost positive that I would have not been able to stay at CMU because having the sudden financial help extinguished would have been too much for my family to handle. Is that selfish to have ensured my education and stability at my university?
I handled the situation like any ethical resident assistant should handle it. Even fellow RA’s on our campus hear the story and they cannot believe I was so strong in my work ethic. They admit that they do not think that they would be able to do what I did if put in my situation. I am proud of my decision. I am so glad I can look back with a clean conscious and know I did the right thing. But, never did I want such a life changing experience to make me lose my two best friends.
I am not perfect, nor do I claim to know all the right answers, but what I do know is that today we must rise above what society may think and do what our inner soul pushes us to do. In my opinion, deep down, each and every one of us knows when we are making a decision that may be unhealthy or unethical but we do it because of peer pressure, and because of selfishness. Rise above that. Making the right decision may put us in awkward situations or be less beneficial in the long run. Edward Abbey once said that when life is difficult if acquires a higher value. My challenge is to acquire the highest value you can on your life. At times you will face adversity when you do the right thing but it will only make you stronger. Evaluate your choices with all the wisdom and knowledge you can find. And if after reading my story, you still feel like I made the wrong choice, then maybe you should evaluate your own ethics and strive to improve it.
Submitted by Linda Harvey, Resident Assistant, Central Michigan University