Resident assistants work hard for their room and board. They are often required to work long hours and late nights in addition to attending training sessions throughout the year.
Still, no amount of training can prepare someone for something as tragic as the untimely death of a student such as Leo Lydon, a freshman communications major who passed away last Monday. The cause of Lydon’s death is still unknown, and the autopsy might not be available for another two weeks, a sheriff’s department spokesperson said Monday.
“No one is ever prepared to deal with someone dying,” said Willie Brown, executive director of Housing and Residential Services. “Especially someone so young.”
During an almost four-week training session before students return for classes in the fall, on-campus RAs are taught counseling skills and emergency procedures to prepare them for a wide variety of difficult, but unlikely, situations.
“We train our staff for a lot of things which we hope never happen,” Brown said. “I’ve been here for 14 years and this is the first time since I’ve been here that anyone has died on campus.”
When Lydon was found in his room at San Nicolas Residence Hall, staff followed the campus protocol for a medical emergency.
After Lydon was pronounced dead, the residence hall combined efforts with the Counseling and Career Services and held two counseling sessions that same day: one for Lydon’s suitemates and the other for all the residents on his floor.
“W e spent time specifically with this group of people, those closest to him, to help them cope with what happened,” Brown said.
RAs at Francisco Torres have a similar, yet shorter, training session before school starts and both on- and off-campus residence halls provide training throughout the year.
Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young said that he was very impressed with the way the staff handled the “extraordinary and sad” event of Lydon’s death.
“We have one of the finest residential life staffs in the system,” Young said, “probably as good as anything in the country.”
Matthew Roberts, a RA in Francisco Torres, said that although he has had a “good time with the residents,” being a RA is a serious time commitment.
“It’s not a job so much as a lifestyle,” Roberts said.