April 13, 2024

It’s drizzling and foggy outside, not an ideal night for going out, but multiple students make their way into the treacherous weather to find the music blaring from houses signaling a party.  But inside Ferncliff Hall, on the worn plaid lobby couch right in front of the TV, sit Katherine Barlow and Luke Durell.  Why aren’t they joining the partygoers?  Because Durell and Barlow are Resident Assistants (RAs).  They have chosen one of the least coveted jobs on campus. In addition to the free room and a paid salary, the two offer more heartfelt reasons as to why they decided to become RAs.
“I like connecting to people,” Durell said.  “I like getting the first chance at being somebody’s first friend on campus.  I like the idea of being somebody’s reason they love Witt.”
Barlow had a similar response.
“I decided to become an RA because I wanted to help make Wittenberg home for students,” she said.  “It sounds cheesy, but it’s the easiest way to explain it.”
Sometimes being on duty means doing homework for the two.  Tonight, they are watching “Prison Break.”
“Luke and I started watching ‘Prison Break’ when we were both on duty the first Friday of the school year,” Barlow explained.  “We needed something to do and decided on Netflix. I think you would call both of us Netflix connoisseurs, and we narrowed it down to ‘Prison Break’ based on good reviews.”
Tonight, they are almost finished with season one, and they are hooked.  Durrell’s mouth hangs slightly open, and Katherine’s eyes narrow on the screen. They ask each other questions.  It’s just another Friday night for these two.
10:30 p.m.  “Can you pause it?  I’m going to go on a round,” Barlow says, stretching her legs.  She leaves, and Durell sighs and runs his fingers through the hair hiding under his hat.  He picks up his phone and scrolls through social media, takes pictures on Snapchat and makes himself a sweet potato.  Later in the night, he’ll start a pot of coffee.
On her round, Barlow snakes her way down every hall and up every stairwell. At each bathroom, she stops, knocks and calls out, “RA!” then proceeds to check for any “illegal” behavior, such as someone knocked out, throwing up or making too much noise. Additionally, RAs report anything found listed on the prohibited items list, such as alcohol, drugs and hamsters.
Thankfully, tonight’s rounds have been quiet. She navigates Ferncliff flawlessly.  Turn a corner, knock on a bathroom, “RA!” check a trashcan, climb the stairs and do it all again on the next floor.
10:40 p.m.  Barlow comes back.  Anything happen?  Not on her round.  Sometimes Durell has small trials when he goes on one.
“My residents dump over the trashcan,” he states.
“My residents are perfect,” Barlow replies.
It’s time to press play.  Durell and Barlow are glued to the TV again. Some students stop by and ask about the show, launching Durell and Barlow into an explanation.  Their passion for it is evident.
“‘Prison Break’ is more exciting than any social event could be,” Durell admits.
1:30 a.m.  Time for another round.  It’s Durell’s turn.  When he comes back, they continue the routine.  Episode one of season two.  The convicts have broken out of prison and are now on the run.  Will the police catch them?
The door slams again.  A student yells at another as he stumbles in.  Durell and Barlow glance back, but the students are not disruptive enough to require the RAs to confront them.
“Initially loud students were really frustrating, and we would pause it [“Prison Break”],” Durell says when the students leave.
“We started using subtitles,” Barlow adds.
“But at one point getting up and pausing it was too passive aggressive, as you can imagine.  Really there haven’t been many issues after that,” Durell said.
Still, the RAs are on high alert.  They recognize their responsibility in the dorms.  In the “Prison Break” world, they would be the head of Prison Industries, a team of prisoners who do maintenance and repair around the prison
“So are we like PI?” Barlow asks.
“I think we are head of PI.  In a sense we are like prisoners, but we’re in charge of the other prisoners cause we are respected,” Durell answers.
2:30 a.m. finally arrives, and episode one of season two has ended.  Perfect timing.  Durell finishes a round as Barlow gathers her things and fills out their duty log.  Nothing to report.  The late night stragglers made their way home and tucked themselves into bed.  Durell and Barlow have made some real progress in “Prison Break.”  In other things?  Not so much.
They will continue watching the show when they are on duty together, and then when they finish, it will be time for a new show.  Some count themselves lucky they have the freedom to choose what to do on a Friday night.  For Durell and Barlow, “Prison Break” may be as close as they get to an adrenaline rush on the first night of the weekend.  Still, having a free room may be worth it.

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