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Then and now: Life as a CA

Then and now: Life as a CA
Two things no CA wants to see on their floor: toga parties (above, from 1986 "Seal") and hallway Slip & Slides (below, from 1973 "Seal").

 If you ever lived on campus, or even if you just crashed in a friend’s dorm after a night of carousing, there’s a good chance you interacted with a Community Adviser. CAs, as they’re commonly known, are upper-class students who put their leadership skills (and occasionally their health and sanity) to the test by overseeing an entire floor of sometimes very rowdy college students. 

Having the unenviable task of bringing order to the bedlam that can overtake a floor of college students brought to mind some amusing anecdotes from the past CAs with whom we talked. 

Ralph Taber ’77 said he witnessed plenty of “good-natured mayhem” as a CA in the Centennial Hall basement (aka, The Pit) in the late 1970s, particularly the night he awoke to loud, crashing noises coming from the hallway. “I walked out there and saw that someone had gone to Slocum’s and ‘borrowed’ 10 pins and a ball, and the residents were bowling in the hallway,” he said with a laugh. 

David Holleran ’95, currently an associate professor and chair of TCNJ’s criminology department who worked as a CA in Wolfe Hall as an undergrad, also recalled being stirred by something—or someone—going bump in the night. 

“I awoke at 2 a.m. to what sounded like someone running up and down the hall,” said Holleran. He went into the hallway to investigate, and just as he got to the stairwell door it “flew open and…what had to be in the neighborhood of three to five gallons of water came rushing through the door followed by a young man dressed only in his boxer shorts sliding rapidly toward the wall in the stairwell.” 

Having the responsibility of enforcing the rules on a residence floor can sometimes bring a stigma upon CAs, and more than a few have been looked upon as “party poopers.” Richard Brown ’10 can attest to that. He recalled one occasion when a case of mistaken identity forced him to break up the party being thrown by one of the students on his floor. 

“Long story short, I was mistaken for another freshmen and invited to participate in activities that for all intents and purposes would not have been sanctioned by the College,” Brown explained. He said he accepted the student’s invitation to the party, and added wryly, “I don’t think the student expected me to show up to the party in the capacity I did.” 

But to think of CAs as merely being the rule enforcers on a floor would be to discredit the essential role they play in the living-learning experience of TCNJ’s residential students. Sure, CAs might break up a party or two, or put an end to hallway bowling and Slip & Slides, but more often than not CAs act as surrogate big brothers and sisters, looking out for everyone’s well-being and serving as confidants and counselors in academic and personal matters. They plan activities to help floor mates bond, and resolve conflicts when those same students can’t get along. CAs have an influence on their students that is hard to measure but impossible to ignore. They’re passionate about their jobs, and want nothing more than to help their residents as much as possible. 

“The most rewarding thing from participating in Residence Life to me is hearing success stories of prior residents,” said Brown. “I love to hear what former residents are doing.”

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