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Resident Directors' Understandings of Disability
The RDs also perceived tension in what they perceived
at times to be the competing interests of the institutions
by whom they were employed and the students in
their residential communities who they aimed to support.
Tension emerged in this study between, on the one hand, RDs understanding disability
in individualized ways and engaging in it as a topic of diversity and, on the other
hand, their experiences of departmental discussions and development opportunities in
which disability was rarely centered. Based on the emergent theory of active tensions
surrounding RD understandings of disability, RD supervisors should create opportunities
for professional staff to discuss the experiences of students with disabilities in their
residential environments. Bringing DS staff into department meetings or trainings to
present case studies of interactive accommodation processes for residential students
with disabilities would be one way to develop these conversations.
Similarly, time and professional development resources should be devoted to exploring
disability as an aspect of diversity. There are multiple ways this might be undertaken,
including engaging with faculty that residence life departments may already
have on their campuses or utilizing relevant scholarship (e.g., Aquino, 2016; Pearson
& Samura, 2017; Shallish, 2015) in departmental mission, vision, and planning sessions.
RDs should also be supported by supervisors in deepening their familiarity with
DisCrit (e.g., Annamma et al., 2018; Erevelles & Minear, 2013). Many of the RDs perceived
tension at the limits of their abilities to advocate for students. Developing their
understandings of disability as an element of diversity and as an identity that has intersectional
implications will support their abilities in the cross-departmental support of
students with disabilities.
RDs are also well positioned to employ both these suggestions within their residential
programs or curricula. RDs who supervise living-learning communities should
be encouraged to develop collaborative learning opportunities. In addition to devoting
time to training resident assistants on disability services' policies and practices, RDs
should also infuse RA training with an introduction to the social model of disability so
that RDs can better promote universal design-based approaches to RA programs and
community development opportunities. The more that RDs are in conversation with
their RAs and their residents regarding the social model, the more likely they may
be able to identify and articulate the tensions they experience between individuals
and systems. Articulating these tensions may support broader departmental or crossdepartmental
adoption of universal approaches to residential policies, procedures,
and educational opportunities.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
There is limited research on how campus housing administrators think about and support
students with disabilities. The present study has contributed to filling this gap by
beginning to generate emergent themes in this area. Preliminarily, these themes are
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