by Dave Waddell
College is supposed to be full of lessons. This semester, Chico State junior Edgar Vasquez is learning a particularly painful one that has left him homeless and losing weight.
Vasquez, 21, says he was one of about two dozen university resident advisers who were fired en masse in early March after they attended an off-campus party at which some drank alcohol. With the firings, the university forced the RAs out of their dorm rooms and off their meals plans. Vasquez valued the economic hit to him at between $2,000 and $2,500.
According to another fired RA who asked not to be identified, a total 23 RAs were terminated, including 16 from Whitney Hall, a nine-story dorm that houses exclusively freshmen and has a reputation for rowdiness. The remaining seven RAs came from the Shasta, Lassen, University Village and North Campus dormitories, she said. Some of those terminated have been rehired as resident advisers for the 2017-18 academic year, she said.
Most of the terminated RAs have since found other housing off campus, but not Vasquez, a recreation therapy major from Modesto. He thought he was going to get into a two-bedroom apartment along with five others at an affordable $170 a month each, but that fell through because the owner wanted a long-term lease.
“I’ve been couch hopping,” Vasquez said. “Just been staying with friends, sleeping on the floor or couch.”
Vasquez said he spends “one to three days” at each friend’s home before moving on to his next stop – a pattern he expects to continue through the spring semester that ends May 19.
He’s also noticed being hungry a lot more and that his clothes hang a bit looser since his Whitney departure, estimating his weight loss at 3 pounds.
“Friends will swipe me into the dining hall” with their meal cards, Vasquez said. “If not, I have a few Clif Bars. I’m getting by.”
Vasquez, who is almost 22 and was in his second year as a resident adviser, said he drank at the party attended by the RAs, but stayed away from Whitney that night. A few days later, RAs were summoned to a meeting and questioned individually.
“Some of us were honest, and some of us weren’t,” Vasquez said. “I was very honest about what happened.”
The fired RAs were initially ordered out of Whitney effective March 4, but most appealed and were allowed to stay until the start of spring break, March 10.
“The aftermath of it, the vagueness, the lack of communication, was difficult,” Vasquez said of University Housing’s response. “It’s a huge life lesson. I’m definitely going to learn a lot from it.”
Asked about long-term impacts of the firings, Vasquez said they will “definitely add to Whitney Hall’s reputation as a party dorm.”
Vasquez said he expected the loss of so many RAs to be chaotic, but his impression is that things have gone pretty smoothly in Whitney.
A March 22 story in The Orion, the student newspaper at Chico State, said that signs such as “No RAs, let’s have a keggar!” have become common in Whitney. One freshman reported increased use of potent marijuana.
“I didn’t see that it was much crazier in the dorms,” The Orion quoted Noah Wagner as saying. “Except for the halls smelling like straight dank.”
Abeer Mustafa, director of University Housing, declined comment on the firings and the dorm smells.