Salary cuts anger dorm assistants

Resident assistants salaries for the spring 2004 semester were drastically cut because of budget constraints. Most resident assistants said they didn’t see these changes coming and weren’t financially prepared to take salary adjustments.

“Being that I wasn’t prepared, I have to tutor because of a lack of money”, said Ariana Burgess, a Truth Hall resident assistant.

Several resident assistants made verbal complaints to the housing department to keep their salaries at the same wage, but to no avail.

Interim Director of Housing Oscar Crumity said RA’s signed a housing agreement in August 2003 that included a beginning date of Aug. 15, 2003, and a termination date of Dec. 17, 2003.

The change in salaries were implemented Sept. 22, 2003.

“No one was forced to work the following semester,” Crumity said. “Each resident assistant had the choice of saying yes or no to signing the new housing agreement. Because of maintenance repairs and debts owed by housing residents, we had to cut salaries and adjust room rates.”

Crumity said some resident assistants in University Gardens and Cottages of Magnolia found the new housing agreement more unfair than resident assistants in Polkinghorne Village.

“We had an unequal playing field. Polkinghorne is less developed while University Gardens is more developed,” Crumity said.

“To insure quality, we had to place everyone on the same pay scale.”

Some resident assistants said they had no choice but to sign the new housing agreements because of no alternative housing options.

Kevin James, a Gibbs Hall resident assistant, said, “I have to live on campus for the rest of my schooling because of the skyrocketing prices of off-campus housing.”

“Either way it goes, as a RA, it’s still cheaper to live on campus,” said James, who has been a resident assistant for three years.

“Each resident assistant received a letter from Crumity on Sept. 22, 2003, stating new changes to the Housing and Board Agreement.

From Sept. 22, 2003 to Dec. 17, 2003, resident assistants had sufficient time to find housing,” Crumity said.

According to Crumity, the letter stated that the housing department would waive $1,000 of the resident assistants’ housing fees and would provide them with a stipend of $980 for each semester of employment totaling 32 hours biweekly.

Burgess said the stipend offer still posed a bias.

“Traditional dormitory resident assistants have a mandatory meal plan to purchase,” she pointed out.

“I think it’s unfair because the $980 stipend went toward the meal plans,” she said.

“On-campus apartment-style resident assistants get to pocket their money instead of purchasing the meal plan,” Burgess said.

“Housing should let resident assistants know that the contract could change. It’s a tentative contract,” James said.

Crumity said that housing agreements would be explained more clearly in the future.

“It’s not our intent to harm any employee,” he said.

“We will notify resident assistants ahead of time.”

Marvin Thompson, a resident assistant of Gibbs Hall, found the salary and contract changes justifiable.

“Residents who don’t pay their rent mess it up for everyone else,” Thompson said.

“But they don’t realize they’re messing up the Housing Department’s budget.”

Thompson said, “If residents paid their rent and took care of the dorms, we would have better facilities.”

The housing department records show that FAMU’s housing customers had an outstanding debt of $974,633.15 for the 2004 semester.

Crumity said the debt is a result of rent being paid late or sometimes not being paid at all.

“If people only knew what maintenance problems we face, they would understand,” Crumity said.

“Bad publicity about housing problems could hurt the University.”

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