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RAs to strike ‘indefinitely’ starting Thursday unless Stanford meets demands

Student staff from more than 20 dorms call for adequate COVID-19 protections, higher pay

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Resident assistants (RAs) from more than 20 dorms have threatened to strike starting Thursday if their demands for expanded COVID-19 safety measures and increased compensation are not met by the University. 

Student staff organizers say that if Residential Education (ResEd) refuses to address their requests, they are prepared to strike indefinitely — setting the stage for a showdown that could complicate Stanford’s plans to house all undergraduates on campus for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

Frosh are scheduled to move in starting Sept. 11 for New Student Orientation, while move-in for upperclassmen begins Sept. 15.

Student Collective Action Against Residential Education (SCAARE), an organizing group led by around 15 RAs, is calling on Stanford to meet four central demands: provide a virtual alternative for large in-person training events, increase RA compensation consistent with peer institutions, involve RAs in the ResEd decision-making process and revise the updated alcohol and drug policy, which will require RAs to report most instances of underage drinking.

The more than 20 residence halls with RAs threatening to strike include EVGR-A, EAST, Schiff, Meier, Naranja, Adams, Ujamaa, Burbank, Terra, Trancos, Enchanted Broccoli Forest, 576 Alvarado, Kimball, 675 Lomita, Casa Zapata, Hammarskjöld, Toyon, Faisan, Cardenal, Jerry and Yost. Organizers said that they expect the number of dorms participating to rise. It was not immediately clear if every student staff member in the residence halls is planning to join the effort.

The potential strike stems from student staff’s COVID-19 safety concerns about the indoor, in-person training sessions scheduled for the hundreds of RAs who arrived on campus over the weekend. Following student staff protest, ResEd decided to hold Monday’s training virtually so students could receive COVID-19 test results beforehand — but said all other sessions would remain in-person. 

RA training will extend through the end of next week with a mix of smaller dorm-specific sessions and larger events with hundreds of RAs, according to a ResEd schedule obtained by The Daily. 

On Tuesday, organizers say an RA who attended an indoor training with hundreds of student staff tested positive for COVID-19, spurring students to organize particularly out of concern for immunocompromised and disabled student staff. While The Daily could not independently verify the positive case, at least 10 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 23.

“You have forced us to make an impossible choice: either we risk attending another potential superspreader event, or we remain untrained as you continue to refuse to provide a hybrid or virtual option for staff training,” SCAARE wrote in an email to University administrators. “We have been left with no other option but to withhold our labor until our demands are met.”

Stanford spokesperson E.J. Miranda declined to comment on whether ResEd was aware of a potential RA strike and how they would respond to one, but said in a statement that “we will continue addressing the questions and concerns of student staff as we work together to welcome students back to campus.” 

Miranda added that the University is “grateful” for the students who have become student staff for the upcoming academic year. But some students are saying that Stanford is not doing enough to provide for the physical and emotional wellbeing of RAs. 

One of the RAs leading the charge, a senior who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, said that ResEd has failed to adequately respond to student staff concerns.

“As student staff, our primary goal is to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of our residents, and we just can’t serve our residents when we are put in conditions that actively threaten our own health,” the RA said. “If Stanford can’t take care of the 500 or so RAs currently on campus and address our concerns about COVID safety, then how can we expect them to take care of the entire student body?”

In addition to demanding virtual training, the RAs said they should be paid at a rate of $18 an hour — the current pay rate for Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) employees — for their participation in the two-week staff training and orientation period before the start of classes. Student staff, however, are employed by ResEd, not R&DE.

RA training is currently included in the student staff stipend, which is set to $11,400 for the year and does not include room and board. SCAARE is also demanding “an increase in compensation in-line with or equal to the wages our fellow universities pay their residential assistants.” 

“Based on housing and dining costs alone, RAs are effectively paying to do their jobs,” the RA organizer said, adding that the hazards presented by COVID-19 justify the requested raise in compensation. 

SCAARE has given the University a deadline of 5 p.m. on Wednesday to respond.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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Cameron Ehsan is a desk editor for the News section and the engagement editor. He is studying biology and American studies. Contact him at cehsan ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.