OUSA is currently lobbying the University to increase pay for RAs after 85% of students in the recent OUSA referendum said that they wanted RA’s pay to entirely cover their accommodation costs.
Currently, after their pay is deducted, an RA at a University-owned college still has to pay between $117 and $137 a week. An RA at a University-owned college told Critic earlier in the year that he “basically considers it volunteering. It’s not how you save money. I’m paying to work here”.
After the referendum result, OUSA held two open discussions with RAs about the financial barriers of being an RA, and also received around 60 written submissions on the subject.
Norhan El Sanjak, OUSA Colleges Officer, said that the feedback was that “RAs are both students and employees and are not receiving the full benefit of being either”.
She said that the overall feeling was that RAs would be better off financially flatting and working equivalent hours at an outside organisation.
Another problem RAs identified is that it is difficult for them to work only their rostered 17-hours, because it is unreasonable to expect them to turn down students that require emotional or physical support, merely because they are off duty.
“If a student is struggling with mental health (RAs have stated that have been on suicide watch) or is violently sick, RAs are simply not going to clock out when they reach their 17-hour limit. This is a reality we need to face,” said Norhan.
Other problems RAs face include not receiving the same college benefits and services as students, even though they pay the same fees. Students within colleges are partly paying their fees so they can have events/activities, like formal dinners and tutorials. RAs are not receiving the benefit of those events/tutorials, which they are often expected to help run instead.
OUSA is going to compile the information they have gathered and will present it to the University in the near future.