Naproxen250 / Wikimedia Commons
Naproxen250 / Wikimedia Commons

‘I found it pretty shocking’: RCA gives anonymous interview on the new residential system for Warwick accommodation

In an exclusive interview for The Boar, a Residential Community Assistant (RCA) describes their experience dealing with sensitive situations, often involving mental health and wellbeing. 

They also add to growing speculation about the alleged resignation of at least one manager.  

The Residential Community System, which replaced the Residential Life Team (RLT), is partly comprised of undergraduate and postgraduate students who are responsible for running events, checking up on the wellbeing of students, and signposting (referring students to wellbeing support, charities, or university services).  

The RLT was replaced following a proposal initiated by the former director of wellbeing. The new system aims to be more responsive to students and include more peer-to-peer support, although the dissolution of the RLT was controversial with widespread opposition from staff and students 

In the new system, RCAs are based in student hubs located around halls of residence, rather than specific blocks.  

“On the one hand, it’s easier for students to know where [we] are,” John* said. “We’ve got lots of events going, which has definitely been an improvement on last year… the positive of that is that you’ll get to know more students, to interact with more students.”  

“The difference from last year is that we’re always going around campus, going into different kitchens, so it’s definitely more active.”  

However, John said that because RCAs are based in hubs, rather than in specific blocks, there are questions around how they will know if students are feeling isolated.  

“Students might be able to know a certain group of people and talk to them regularly, but you could also say with RLTs that they could be more present. So, they had one block of students, while we don’t have that one block.” 

“An RLT might be able to pick up on isolation more if they’re regularly checking kitchens. If they were to go to the kitchen and someone were to say, ‘I haven’t seen this person for a while’, then if those flatmates weren’t proactive, we might never get to them.” They added “if the flatmates never report it we might not find out.” 

Another change from the RLT system is that peer-to-peer support raises the issue of, in some cases, relatively young RCAs dealing with issues involving mental health, self-harm, and even suicide. Although RCAs do not enter rooms without students letting them in – instead, this role is delegated to community safety – John mentioned one instance where they had to check up on a student suspected of self-harming. 

“I found it pretty shocking.” 

“I think there are questions around training and the minimum age that RCAs should be. For instance, I think the training could have dealt more with specific issues. But maybe that’s just me, some students could have found the training sufficient, others might not have thought it’s enough.”  

“We are also given online training around mental health, which is good.”  

They mentioned that their manager did check up on them after the incident, although John went on to raise wider issues around organisation. John said there have been some occasions when they “get given a rota, and it’ll say, ‘you’re in these halls, you’re in those halls,’ and then they’ll say ‘you’re not actually here!’ So there’s an issue of letting us know what we’re doing.”  

John said that at least one Residential Community Coordinator (RCC) – the managers RCAs report to – had already resigned.  

This claim was reinforced by another anonymous source. Further, when this article was last updated (01/12/2022), the Residential Community website refers to six RCCs, but lists only three. Additionally, a review posted on Glassdoor purporting to come from either a current or a former RCC gave a critical assessment of “burnout” and “stress”. However, The Boar still cannot say for certain whether the resignation claim is true.  

Asked whether these organisational problems raised concerns about whether students are being properly checked up on after signposting, John said that it was “too early to tell”, but they hoped that the University would respond appropriately to the feedback of RCAs.  

Warwick University responded: “The welfare of our students will always be our top priority. Our new Residential Community Team (RCT) model provides a more consistent, visible and accessible approach to supporting our students in their accommodation.   

“It moves us away from a purely volunteer-led system, which had existed since the 1960s, to a professional system which better reflects the changing needs and expectations of our community.” 

On resignations, the University said: “Like any other employer, staff members will occasionally leave their role to pursue other opportunities. We have a high staff retention rate and continue to receive positive feedback from students and others on the RCT.” 


Comments (1)

  • This system is a complete mess… with the RLT system there were people in each block students could get in touch with at anytime..yes it was old worked … lead by two dedicated senior members with years of experience of life on campus .. the person who implemented this new system left before she could witness the mess she has made… yes the old system wasn’t perfect …but to throw that wealth of knowledge away …. Warwick well-being also impacted …warwick is the poorer for this ..

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