RAs fired for drinking in dorms

by Beacon Staff • September 26, 2007

Resident assistants James Sturges, Hermela Aregawi and Ellen Tremiti were fired for drinking in the dormitories last week, according to Aregawi, Tremiti and another RA who verified the information but wished to remain anonymous, citing the RA's confidentiality agreement.

They said RAs James Carmichael and Kelly Johnson were also placed on probation for their involvement.

The incident took place on Sept. 5 and involved none of their residents, said Aregawi, a junior broadcast journalism major.

According to Aregawi, the five gathered with 750 milliliters, or a fifth, of vodka around 5 p.m. that night. Aregawi said none of them drank enough to get drunk, and that there was no immediate confrontation with college police or another RA that night. Then, she was called into a resident director's office on Sept. 12 and confronted with a narrative about her involvement.

Tremiti and Aregawi said they admitted to being in the presence of alcohol during the meeting with RDs, but would not comment further on specifics of OHRL's investigation of their case.

The three RAs learned they were fired on Sept. 18, and were told to vacate their rooms by Monday.

Tremiti said she believed someone outside the party informed Piano Row Resident Directors Leanne Valdes and Ana Lisa Factora-Borchers.

"I think we underestimated the [drinking] situation, and I think someone overheard about it and was uncomfortable about it," Tremiti said. "Honestly you don't know who made that choice [to inform OHRL], if it was someone involved, or someone outside."

David Rosen, Emerson vice president of public affairs, confirmed the incident involved underage drinking and that the RAs had been relieved of their duties.

Carmichael, a junior marketing major; Sturges, a junior audio/radio major; and Johnson, a sophomore communications sciences and disorders major, declined repeated requests for comment. David Haden, director of the Office of Housing and Residence Life declined to comment on the situation, citing personnel confidentiality.

Tremiti, a junior film and writing, literature and publishing major, was forced to moved out of her apartment-style single-bed dormitory room into another room on campus. she said was offered an on-campus room after the incident, but now must pay the regular room and board cost of $11,376.

Aregawi said she's been forced to move back to her hometown of Braintree, 40 minutes away by public transportation.

"Commitments that I made or rejected, based on this position, are now all messed up," Aregawi said. "And [after] the feeling of settling here, you have to change your plans completely.

"It's embarrassing for those who now have to live on campus and have to pay [more than] $10,000 they didn't foresee. I see myself as one of the fortunate ones, because I have another option."

Carmichael and Johnson, who are on probation, have not lost housing, Aregawi said.

For any other student, loss of housing would only occur if a student was found responsible a third time for such a violation.

"We were not put through the conduct system. It was an internal personnel decision, so it was different," Tremiti said

The incident shook the tight-knit group of resident assistants, said the RA who requested anonymity.

"It hurts the credibility of RAs trying to enforce policies to our residents after having this publicized," the RA said.

Freshman television studio production major Alex Erickson, who was one of Aregawi's residents on the 12th floor of Piano Row, said he didn't believe eviction was fair after the first offense, but that some punishment is appropriate.

"From the college's point of view, if you're going to take on the responsibility of being an RA, then yeah, it probably is a good idea that you should be held to a higher standard," Erickson said.

Both Aregawi and Tremiti said they wished the situation could have been handled differently.

"We really loved our jobs, and we never wanted to be put in this position," Tremiti said.