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Resident assistants react to simulated crises

Program provides a chance to practice leadership skills

Daryl Healea, area director of Warren Towers, portrays an intoxicated student during SRA Simulation Day. Photo by Laura De Veau

A dangerously drunk Daryl Healea is slipping in and out of consciousness. His roommate, Paul Hughes, takes it all in stride. “He’s been worse before. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him,” he tells senior resident assistant (SRA) Monika Jamrozek (SAR’08).

One of six scenarios played out on August 17 during SRA Simulation Day, the incident was part of preparing 31 SRAs for challenging situations and giving them an opportunity to practice their confrontation and management skills. Staff from the Office of Residence Life, along with officers from the BU Police Department and other University employees, became actors for a day to see how the SRAs would handle some of the issues they might face during the academic year.

What would you do if you were the SRA in the above situation? Many would undoubtedly say that the intoxicated student should get medical attention. But the SRAs are thrown a curve ball: an emergency medical technician, portrayed by Anitza Guadarrama-Tiernan, director of Claflin Hall, refuses to deal with Healea, who in reality is area director of Warren Towers. Furthermore, BUPD Sergeant Jack St. Hilaire, playing himself, is also in a hurry to leave, and Hughes, who is actually area director of Myles Standish Hall, is eager to keep his roommate out of more trouble.

Jamrozek doesn’t hesitate to call an Office of Residence Life administrator, portrayed by Myq Kaplan (GRS’07), SRA of a Bay State Road residence. “Hang on,” says Kaplan. “We’ll make arrangements to get the student transported to the hospital.”

When the simulation is over, St. Hilaire congratulates Jamrozek for reacting appropriately. “You did the right thing,” he says. “You never want to leave a student in his condition in the care of another student.” He adds that in real life, a BUPD officer would never walk away from such a situation, but instead would make sure that the student received medical attention. The goal of the exercise was to see how Jamrozek would deal with an extreme scenario where she received little cooperation. Her handling of the situation was correct — getting help and not letting Healea “sleep it off.”

SRA Simulation Day is an annual event, but this year’s storylines were based more specifically on the past experiences of SRAs, according to Laura De Veau (CGS’87, COM’89. SED’95), assistant director for student and staff development in the Office of Residence Life. “Each team had at least one returning SRA to act as a guide and source of support,” she says. The simulations included a student refusing to leave his building during a minor electrical fire, an SRA having to talk with the floormates of a student hospitalized for depression, the case of a missing student, and even a situation with bickering RAs.

“This was my second time doing this, and I still found it extremely useful,” says SRA Sara Tribe (SSW’07), who had to confront a student who wouldn’t leave his residence hall during a fire alarm because he was studying for an exam.

Robert Doody (MED’07), a South Campus SRA, needed to talk with the friends of a missing student, and says the immediacy of the unfolding events gave him invaluable experience in crisis management. “Even though they’re simulations, they’re live,” he says, “so they’re helpful because when you deal with a real situation, you’ve already seen it once.”

“We’d prefer them to make their mistakes now, rather than two weeks from now,” De Veau says.