Journal of College & University Student Housing Vol. 47 No. 2 - 51

Using Inclusion Assistants

Inclusion assistants provided support and empathy when
students with underrepresented identities experienced
discrimination, oppression, or a crisis based on their
identity. . . . They also formed and hosted dialogue groups
where residents could be part of intentional dialogue
about discrimination, oppression, and inclusion.
practices in hiring RAs in order to better
support residents with underrepresented
identities (Boettcher et al., 2019; Healea &
Hale, 2016; Hotchkins & Dancy, 2017).
	
However, simply hiring a diverse resident assistant staff is insufficient (Harper
et al., 2011). Students with underrepresented identities still report a lack of support by
the residence hall staff on issues of diversity
(Altmaier, 2019; Hotchkins & Dancy, 2017).
When students of color serve as resident assistants, they are faced with more challenging and negative experiences than are their
White counterparts. In a study of the experiences of Black male resident assistants at
a PWI, Harper et al. (2011) found that they
experienced racial stereotyping, isolation
within the residence hall staff, and harsher
treatment and were held to higher standards
than the White resident assistants. However,
Healea and Hale (2016) found that resident
assistants from underrepresented backgrounds recognized that even small amounts
of diversity training made a big difference in
improving the climate for underrepresented
students. The professional staff and their
awareness and activism on behalf of students
with underrepresented identities also provided positive support for resident assistants of
diverse backgrounds (Healea & Hale, 2016).
Harper et al. (2011) advocate for residence
hall staff engaging in self-reflection on their
treatment and thought processes regarding
Black resident assistants versus their White
counterparts. The residence hall staff must
not only receive training on issues of diversi-

48

The Journal of College and University Student Housing

ty, but must also make sure they consciously
treat paraprofessional staff with underrepresented identities equitably. Intentional efforts
to better support underrepresented students
are critical, but prioritizing inclusion work
among other responsibilities remains challenging (Boettcher et al., 2019).

INCLUSION ASSISTANT PROGRAM
Wanting to better support students with underrepresented identities in the residence
halls and recognizing shortcomings of the existing multicultural advisor program, members of the residence life staff at the site of
this study transformed their multicultural
advisor program into an inclusion assistant
program. This program supplements the
traditional resident assistant program and
is part of a residential curriculum grounded
in Baxter Magolda and King's (2004) learning partnerships model and in principles of
intergroup dialogue (Nagda, 2006). The engagement strategies of the program include
intentional interactions between residents
and paraprofessional staff, community meetings, residence hall programs designed and
facilitated by professional staff, and self-guided learning opportunities (see Figure 1). The
program is consistent with studies showing
the importance of positive diversity interactions and supportive environments (Mayhew
et al., 2016).
	
Inclusion assistants are undergraduate and graduate paraprofessional staff who
work alongside resident assistants and professional staff to collaboratively support the



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