Exploring the Race Card...The Relationship Between First-Year Residents and Their Resident Assistant

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and School Counseling

First Advisor

Wanda Maulding

Advisor Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling


The purpose of this study was to decide if the race of the Resident Assistant (RA) affected the overall level of residence life satisfaction for first-year resident students at The University of Southern Mississippi during the 2006 spring semester. The results from this study identified the factors that first-year resident students (Caucasian and African American) identify as important to their overall satisfaction level in a residence hall. The study utilized the ACUHO-I/EBI Benchmarking annual residence life satisfaction survey as the main research instrument. The surveys produced a 94% return rate. Only African-American and Caucasian resident students were considered in the study since an overwhelming majority of resident students and RA's identified with one of these racial groups. A total of 945 first-year resident students participated in the study, with 54.5% of the residents identifying as Caucasians and 40.4% were African Americans. The results identified appreciating ethnic diversity as the highest means among the 12 satisfaction factors for both Caucasian and African-American resident students. The factor that ranked the lowest in satisfaction was maintaining a quiet environment for both racial groups. Statistical tests were conducted to determine if there were any significant differences with each one of the 12 satisfaction factors when the resident student had an RA of a different race. No significant differences were reported. The only area that produced significant difference was in certain racial pairings that explored individual satisfaction factors. In the area of availability, Caucasian RA's scored higher than African-American RA's in resident satisfaction. In the area of making appropriate referrals, Caucasian residents rated their RA, regardless of race, higher than African Americans rated their RA. The next area that showed a significant difference was in treating everyone fairly. Caucasian residents were more satisfied with their RA, regardless of race, than African-American residents. Caucasian residents were also more satisfied with their RA's efforts, regardless of RA, to appreciate ethnic diversity than African-American residents. Lastly, the survey results revealed that Caucasian residents are overall more satisfied with the performance of their RA, regardless of race, than African-American residents. Based on the results of this study, first-year residents surveyed did not look at race as a factor in satisfaction with their RA. Recommendations for further research were made to include exploring other racial groups besides African-American and Caucasian residents, comparing the results from this study to results from upper-class student populations, and expanding this study to more than one university.