RAs Disagree with Dining Hall Contingency Plans

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Colleges Housing and Educational Services representatives are no longer requiring residential assistants (RAs) to help coordinate “Seat and Heat” programs in the dining halls during the UC-wide strike planned for May 7-9 by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299.

Each college has communicated to their RAs differently over the last few weeks regarding requirements. Some colleges required RAs sign up for the dining hall program for the anticipated May 1 strike activity, whereas other colleges had mandated participation for the planned AFSCME strike. A College Nine coordinator for residential education specifically told their RAs if they did not sign up to participate, they could face job related consequences, according to College Nine RA Karla Cisneros.

On May 1, Sue Matthews said in an email that this was a miscommunication and RAs would not be required to facilitate the “Seat and Heat” programs, but were encouraged to volunteer.

Many RAs, including Cisneros from College Nine, said the tasks being asked of them at these programs conflict with the RAs autonomy to be in solidarity with service workers who are striking.

“I realized I am well within my rights to not only refuse to work in the ‘Seat and Heat’ programs but also to protest along with the service workers,” Cisneros said.

For the “Seat and Heat” program, RA volunteers are being asked to answer questions, greet students and keep the dining halls clean.

“We will also encourage all students to help with these cleaning efforts so that our staff who will return after the strike do not come back to a mess,” said CHES associate vice chancellor Sue Matthews in an email. “There are no RA employment consequences for not volunteering to assist with this program.”

While CHES said dining halls are the only spaces that can accommodate large amounts of people to have access to microwaves and hot water, RAs feel there are many places on campus that would be less invasive to the purpose of the strike.

“The administration can’t just throw RAs in where these workers would be, including bussing tables, sweeping floors and keeping food in stock,” said a Porter College RA who preferred to remain anonymous.

Many RAs and student organizations are proposing and planning alternative events to the CHES’ “Seat and Heat” program.