University of Maryland community assistants expressed numerous concerns about workplace practices including safety protocols and a lack of coverage available during later shifts.
CAs at the university receive ongoing training throughout the semester, according to the university. But some CAs had issues with shift policies and hoped for stronger safety resources.
Benjamine Sarpong, a senior communication and cinema and media studies major, has been working as a CA for the past three years and currently works as a CA at Centreville Hall. Sarpong said CAs are instructed not to leave the desk — even for a few minutes.
In order to take restroom breaks, employees must find another resident assistant or CA in the building to cover their desks, Sarpong added.
“It’s like middle school,” Sarpong said. “I worked winter break after New Year’s and … I had to hold my pee for four hours.”
Junior English major Amy Batmunkh was a CA her first two years of college. She said she enjoyed the role, but found similar issues as Sarpong.
Upper management often said that if CAs were found leaving their desk or sleeping at the desk, it would be “grounds for getting fired,” Batmunkh said.
According to Batmunkh and Sarpong, CAs are typically required to work one “graveyard” shift per week — from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. There is typically only one CA on duty at that time of the night, the pair added.
Sarpong emphasized that the “crazy hours” make it difficult for CAs to remain awake and stay at their desk.
In a statement to The Diamondback, this university said CAs receive training on a “wide range of topics and functions” ahead of each academic year. CAs also receive “ongoing training, support and feedback during regular staff meetings and training” during the year, this university said.
The lack of safety for CAs was also top of mind for some students.
Batmunkh said there were a few times that her coworkers felt unsafe at the desk and hoped for more safety precautions moving forward.
“’I’ve heard of other instances where it’s just really dangerous and it’s never happened to me, but if I was in that situation, I’m not sure what I would do,” Batmunkh said. “I’d probably just walk away from the desk and risk losing my job.”
Batmunkh recalled an instance when a resident went behind the desk while another CA was working. The resident started to “physically harass” the CA working, she added.
Like Batmunkh, Von Wampler, a senior English major and CA at Annapolis Hall, said she has felt unsafe at her desk in certain situations.
“It’s kind of the nature of the job that you’re supposed to just work a graveyard alone, which can at times feel really unsafe,” Wampler said.
Wampler added that part of their concerns stem from the fact that Annapolis Hall has more “public access” than other dorms.
Annapolis Hall has a service desk open 24 hours daily, according to the Resident Life website. Wampler said residents who forget their swipes often “bang” on the doors to get a spare swipe late at night. However, Wampler said she finds it difficult to see out of the doors when it is dark, which she said can be “really scary.”
This university said resident halls are locked 24 hours daily “for the safety and security of all residents, including the CAs.”
“We also advise CAs to prioritize their personal safety and to call University of Maryland Police, the RA on Duty, another CA, or their supervisor if they notice concerning behaviors or need assistance,” this university said.
Moving forward, Batmunkh hopes more safety guidelines for CAs are implemented.
“We weren’t given much resources or training on how to deal with those kinds of things,” Batmunkh said.