As a University of Colorado Boulder Resident Adviser during this pandemic, I’m in a constant state of fear and disgust.
RAs are required to live and work in an unsafe environment, one that constantly threatens their health and safety. As an RA, I’ve dealt with multiple cases where residents, whom I live only a few doors from, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Not only was I uninformed of these positive cases, but those infected students were not moved to quarantine for days.
CU’s delay in communicating test results carries heinous consequences for the health of the community. When one of my residents was positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 15, they did not receive official communication on the isolation process from CU’s health center, Wardenburg, until Sept. 18.
RAs aren’t given instructions on how to handle positive cases left pervading dorms like this one, besides referring them back to Wardenburg.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I am both horrified and disgusted by CU mishandling positive cases in the residence halls. When a student tests positive, it takes days, sometimes up to a week, to move them out of their dorm and into a quarantine space.
This gives those students, who regularly use communal restrooms, dining halls and common spaces many opportunities to transmit COVID-19 to others.
Ostensibly due to HIPAA, RAs are not provided with any medical information from CU concerning positive cases on their floor. RAs don’t know their residents have COVID-19 unless the resident tells them, let alone that the student may have already relocated.
It is my job to be a role model and mentor to CU students, but how can that be expected when neither the CU administration nor the managers in Residence Life provide clear information about COVID-19?
Fearing for the physical and mental health of my residents is unceasing. My freshmen residents tell me they are scared and confused. And they should be, considering CU’s idle, incompetent response to positive cases in residence halls.
RAs are required to do rounds, which means touching upwards of 20 residential and bathroom doors across multiple dorms anywhere from two to six times per month.
Rooms of those infected are sometimes left unsanitized. In other instances, RAs were told to sanitize rooms that the administration knew had recently harbored a positive case.
For all of August and part of September, PPE was not provided for these duties. Only later in the semester, did gloves, supplemental masks, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer become available for RA rounds. Unbelievably, this necessary equipment is still not being issued to some residence halls.
Now with 167 cases in residence halls alone, CU Boulder is running out of isolation spaces, hitting 67% capacity recently. Darley North, a residence hall in William’s Village, was recently evacuated in order to provide more quarantine spaces for sick students.
RAs working in Darley North were forced to move out of the building within 48 hours’ notice. A floor in Williams Village East was sectioned off for supplemental isolation spaces. This means that healthy students and an RA were living next to a slew of students who had tested positive for COVID-19.
CU’s inefficient isolation process creates considerable problems for the health and safety of residents. As of Sept. 25, multiple RAs across campus have resigned from their positions citing health concerns related to COVID-19.
Now with around 31 RA positions left unfilled, existing RAs are taking on the workload that other employees would typically share.
RAs have petitioned for hazard pay and restitution for the health risks they’ve endured, more transparency, protections from being overworked, more safety measures, and an overall effective procedure for controlling the outbreak.
CU has still not officially met these demands; I worry that they never will.
Vayle Lafehr is an undergraduate student and a resident adviser at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is working toward a major in neuroscience and a minor in French.