The Life of Welcome Desk Workers at UMD

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Photo from umd.edu

By Toyin Akinwande
Style Section Editor

As you step into a residence hall, the first thing you see is a student behind a desk, usually on a computer looking to fill the next few hours of their shift. From dawn to dusk, someone is always there to “man the desk at all times.”

These students, known as community assistants or CAs for short, agree they have one of the most interesting jobs on campus. Although some residents may only stop by the desk to pick up a package or grab a temporary key, the CAs have a much larger role to play.

“Your main duties as a CA deals with primarily working with students, RAs, parents and occasionally the UMD police,” junior psychology major Christine Addo said.

“We have to deal with a lot of incidents,” David Tucker, a sophomore bioengineering major, said. “It could be a fire drill, an intoxicated person, who knows. A lot of crazy stuff happens.”

Most of these incidents happen during the “graveyard shift” — between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. — according to senior food science major Mary Uwadineke.

During one of Uwadineke’s graveyard shifts, a group of males entered the on-campus apartment and after a short conversation with her, they tailgated upstairs to the rooms. The men left a few hours later, but soon after, police arrived.

“[The police] came in and asked me ‘who just came in,’” Uwadineke said. She described the guys to the police and later found out it was an alleged sexual assault case.

“As I was leaving the officer chased me down and said he had to get my statement. [The officer] got my number, came to my house and asked me questions,” Uwadineke said. “It was awkward because I had no idea this would happen when they first came in.”

While CAs have had to deal with serious cases like that, they’ve also had experiences they can’t exactly explain.

“I remember my first week on the job, one of the RAs while doing their rounds found a person who looked like he was beat up,” Tucker said. “We called 911 and when the ambulance got here, the guy just got up and ran away and we could not find him.”

Even though they searched the building for an hour, he had disappeared.

When they’re not dealing with incidents in the residence halls, the CAs use this time to catch up with schoolwork.

“I got stuck with the 3-6 a.m. shift every Friday my first semester as a CA,” Addo said. “It’s a pretty rough shift to go to, but it was always quiet during that shift for my resident hall particularly, so I was able to get a decent amount of work or studying done during that time.”

By getting work done at the desk, they can use the time when they’re not on duty to catch up with something arguably more important — sleep.

“I usually try to sleep earlier or after my shifts,” Tucker said. “Sometimes it works out, sometimes I don’t get to sleep earlier and that kind of screws my whole day up. But most of the time it does and that is how I try to balance that.”

No matter the time or what happens during the shift, the part that matters is meeting new people.

“The best part is definitely interacting with residents.“ Tucker said. “You learn a lot about people and where they came from.”

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