The Residence Hall Association (RHA) and Student Government (SG) are the two largest representative organizations on campus. Although SG and RHA are ever-present forces on campus, many students don’t have a clear understanding of how they individually work to serve the student body.
This semester brings some changes to both these important organizations that directly affect students living in traditional dorms, so now is the perfect time to gain a better understanding of what makes RHA and SG distinct and beneficial to on-campus residents.
Last March the student government senate voted on an amendment to replace representatives of individual halls with representatives from each class. This is the first semester that this change has been implemented.
According to SG meeting minutes of March 25, 2019, this amendment was deemed necessary by a majority of SG to equalize representation among the classes. With the hall representatives freshman formerly comprising a third of the senate, one can understand why the push was made to even out the body’s representation. .
A concern brought up by some dissenting members of the senate was that without hall representatives, freshman constituents could lose touch with their senators. Despite these fears, the amendment passed.
Part of SG’s mission statement is, “to communicate student concerns and interests to appropriate University Committees and to the University Administration.”
RHA states that its mission is to provide “high-quality programming to the residents of the University of Dallas… in order to strengthen the resident hall community and provide an overall healthier and more enjoyable living environment.”
RHA includes two representatives from each dorm, although this semester, according to RHA intern Clare Hoelscher, “[RHA] is no longer a part of student life in Clark Hall,” and is focusing instead on the traditional dorms. These traditional dorm representatives create the programming for each school year with the help of the interns.
One notable new program is the RHA Open Forum. Clare Hoelscher described the Open Forum as a monthly opportunity for students to discuss in-person “ideas, concerns, questions, or feedback they may have regarding RHA and life in their residence hall.”
RHA is taking lots of action this semester, and the new Open Forum actively reaches out to students. The accessibility of the Open Forum may lead students with concerns to talk to RHA instead of seeking out their class representative.
By passing the amendment in the first place SG demonstrated that they are willing to try new things in order to serve the student body. SG President Joe Scholz characterized SG’s focus as “[working for the] greater good of our student body and campus community.”
If the new amendment has led to a disconnect between senators and their constituents, it follows that SG would continue on as it has always done in working towards UD students’ best interests.
However, with this lack of hall representatives in SG, students should take advantage of the other channels of communication that they have to SG, including the Student Concerns committee and emailing their respective class senators, in order to make their voices heard.
In addition, as the RHA is now the only location-based representative organization on campus, residents should be aware of their more direct influence on the inner workings of the RHA, and take advantage of the organization through opportunities like the RHA Open Forum in order to make location-based programming more suited to their desires.
Ultimately, students living in traditional dorms are not harmed by the changes to either organization, but they must be more precise and direct in their communications with either organization than they had to be in the past.
As always, SG’s senators are eager to hear from their constituents and bring concerns to administration, and with RHA’s new Open Forum there is an additional way for students to voice ideas about how to make this campus community a better one to live in.