UNM residential assistants push for change

By Juan Baeza / NM News Port

Residential assistants in dorms at the University of New Mexico say they are unhappy with what feels like too much work for not enough pay.

RAs are upset about changes to their meal plan, which is one of the perks that come with the job.

“The meal plans used to be unlimited, and RAs were encouraged to bring residents to La Posada with them,” said Angie Clitso, an RA at Hokona dorm.

The new “community scholar” plans only come with a certain amount of dining dollars. Clitso said she and other RAs have complained about this, but nothing has changed.

The University says the new meal plan was developed in response to RA input. 

“Their contracts say they will be provided with an RA mean plan, it does not specify the unique features of the meal plan,” said Megan Chibanga, the director of UNM Residence Life and Student Housing.

In the past, RAs did not want to be locked into a “one-size-fits-all” meal plan, Chibanga said, so now the University gives them a choice from three different meal plans. 

Clitso said one thing that attracted her to the job was the unlimited meal plan she had heard about and was surprised to find how the new meal plans work. Or don’t.

“I know some RAs have run out of meal plan and we have a month and a half left,” in the semester, Clitso said.

Clitso said she is unhappy about having to work extra desk shifts.

“We should at least be getting paid for the extra desk shifts that we do,” she explained. 

At times she and other RAs have skipped desk shifts as a form of protest.

“We really won’t do any type of big protest, but we do those types of little things that we know management will notice,” she said. 

Clitso says she and other RAs have complained but all the response is “Well, you signed the contract.” The contract, she says, includes language about additional duties, but it’s not specific.

In the job description Chibanga provided the News Port, section D. GENERAL, #3 reads “Perform all other related duties as assigned.” 

Some RAs have talked about organizing but it’s not clear how or when that idea will move forward. 

“One of the RAs here was trying to unionize us and management got wind of it so they kind of took over,” Clitso said. “But nothing is happening, and we are almost at the end of the semester.”

Chibanga said no one had approached the leadership team at Residence Life and Student Housing about unionizing.

“Some of our RAs have requested a meeting with the UNM Residence Life and Student Housing Team about possibly revitalizing the Student Staff Council (formerly the RA council).” The first meeting was scheduled to take place in November. 

With no clear solution ahead, Clitso said she doesn’t plan to come back after her contract is over.

Juan Baeza is a reporter for New Mexico News Port and can be reached on twitter @juanbae13.