Letter to the editor: RAs should serve as intellectual leaders

The elimination of Head Peer Academic Coordinators (Stanford Report, Feb. 4) offers an important opportunity to reconsider what the role should have been to begin with. Dorms never needed an academic point person. Rather, what was and is needed are student staff who can inspire the broader intellectual lives of residents.

In my four years here, I saw HPACs organize majors nights and explain the Stanford Bulletin, but rarely did I see dorm staff instigating intellectual discussions, formal or informal. Students can and do get the information they need to make academic decisions outside of the dorms. The life of the mind, however, needs to be cultivated at home.

If resident assistants are to serve this intellectual role, changes are needed. RA interviews put a premium on important leadership and social skills but often overlook intellectual passion. Conversely, the perception that being an RA has nothing to do with intellectual leadership and is incompatible with a heavy academic workload keeps students with the intellectual energy that could vitalize a dorm from applying.

To live up to its admirable name, Residential Education needs to think long and hard about how to ensure that student staff members support the intellectual rather than the merely academic part of education.

Rafe Kinsey, '08

Former RA, Arroyo House