She knew my name before I moved into my first-year dorm. My door and hall are decorated because of her magical markers. She signs her e-mails with a smiley face and greets me around campus with an equally up-beat expression. Jasnam Sachathep '12 has been my community advisor, Brandeis' name for what other schools call resident advisors, for the past two years. But our friendship beyond the housing arrangement has allowed me to start to understand the complexity of the student position. According to Erika Lamarre, director of Community Living, there are currently 70 CAs on the Brandeis campus. The application posted on the Department of Community Living website for the 2011 to 2012 position describes that the job is meant to "foster safe, healthy residential environments supportive of students' personal and academic growth. CAs act as community developers, supporters of the academic mission, community standards educators, peer advisors, team members, housing and facilities liaisons, and administrators."

So if CAs are supposed to be the authorities of the dormitories, do conflicts arise when they are overseeing their peers?

Tova Ferstenberg '12, a CA in East Quad, recalls one occasion when she had to write up a friend last semester for "clearly violating standards; our friendship was on the back burner." But she notes that the incident didn't change their relationship. "I clarified things afterwards that we were still friends; we even had lunch the next day to solidify things."

"I try to warn my friends if I am going to be on weekend duties," Iyvon Gaga-Edebiri '13, a sophomore CA in the sophomore-filled East admits. "During the week, we are usually just dealing with noise complaints but weekends are when we deal a lot with alcohol and drug incidents."

Several CAs admit that not being assigned to be a CA for their close friends makes their job easier. Liana Langdon-Embry '11 recalls that her primary concern when she first became a CA in East her sophomore year for students in her own class year was that she would have to write up a friend. But, she says, "The truth is that none of my closest friends were on my hall, and though I became friends with my residents, I started off the year being like, 'Respect me and respect my job,' and that went a long way with them."

Robyn Blumberg '11, who lives in the Foster Mods, where Langdon-Embry is now a CA, admits that though her CAs send out e-mails and try to build the community up, she doesn't really take part. "I feel like once you hit senior year, you turn to other people or your friends as resources, and your CAs are there, but you won't necessarily utilize them because then they're your age, whereas before they are probably older," Blumberg said of her relationship with her CAs.

Tali Puterman '13 asserts, "Now CAs aren't as important to us as when we were freshmen. I don't want a fake friend; if I'm going to become friends with my CA, I want it to be natural, not through scheduled hall meetings or one-on-ones."

"Most students see [CAs] as authority figures, and now that I am one, I don't see it so much as an authority as much as somebody there to help. We're students too, and we have a job," said Justin Booska '13, a first-time CA in Gordon Hall.

Several students admit that CAs are important support systems for them. Emma Balmuth-Loris '14 said about her CA in Usen Hall that "his door is almost always open. I've gone to him for advice about what classes to take, and I used him as a reference for my OL application." Daniel Kasdan '13 said, "My CA is my friend; he plays Nintendo and watches YouTube videos with us, and he hangs out with us in the lounge."

Booska notes that he handles each resident differently. "Some are very independent, and others pour their hearts out to me. It's a variety, so I don't try to have any model relationship."

There are several CAs that are assigned to residents that are, in fact, older than them. Gaga-Edebiri, for example, explains that of her 27 residents, six took a year off before entering college. But she claims its not such a challenge in her relationship with residents, "How is this different than somebody who is a club leader for a club with members that are older than them? It seems to prepare people for the real world."

Sarah Pace '13 agrees that while age is not emphasized in the post-college reality, experience does matter, and 2 weeks of CA training does not merit the respect to override the nonexistent age difference between CAs and their residents.

Usman Hameedi '12, a CA in Renfield Hall rebukes, "Two weeks of training is preliminary; you are learning as you are going." Hameedi admits that he has had to write up students who were upset when written up because they "expected me to be biased to them because we are friends."

A student's ability to balance the dual roles of authority figure and peer is a consideration in the CA selection process, according to Bradford Wheeler, the Community Development Coordinator for the Village and Ziv Quad. "[CAs are] working with people to solve problems, and that's a part of their job. So people who have that tenacity for building connections and building community while maintaining professionalism are the folks that we are looking for."

Ryan Fanning '11, who as a senior is is a CA for the first time, pursued the position because after being an Orientation Leader in fall 2009, he was distraught by the limited time he spent with his AIDE group.

"This was a way for me to build those bonds but in a year-long position," he said.

Napolean Lherisson '11, who is a CA in Reitman Hall to about 35 male residents, spoke to what it is like to be a senior for a first-year hall, saying, "There are times where I'm required to step up with certain residents because they don't really know the resources on campus. After all, they are freshmen, but being a CA is a great way to give back.