One significant consequence of the budget constraints last semester is the disbanding of the student program, the Residence Hall Association (RHA).
Sarah Baker, Resident Coordinator and UD alumnus (Politics ’19), was among the first workers who received a phone call over interterm. Baker was informed that RHA was going to be disbanded due to budget constraints and student labor cuts.
Baker said she was told that “UD [had] decided to go a different direction with programming, and it couldn’t afford to do RHA any longer.”
Last semester, Baker’s job involved meeting with the RHA interns each week in individual and staff meetings. Baker also worked with the other residence coordinator, Nathan Ramsey. At these meetings, Baker and the RHA interns would discuss the personal development and general goals they aspired towards for UD student communities.
One of the RHA interns Baker met with regularly was Clare Hoelscher, a senior Interdisciplinary Studies major and the former East Side RHA intern.
Hoelscher was told her position no longer existed less than two weeks before she returned to UD for student worker training.
“It was a surprise,” Hoelscher said. “I was hired for the full year. I expected a job for the last semester of my senior year.”
As the East Side RHA intern, Hoelscher supervised events happening in the traditional dorms of O’Connell, Theresa and Madonna. Hoelscher moderated the planning for events such as a pool and poker night in Theresa Hall and holiday parties in each of the freshman dorms.
Hoelscher also expected to be taking on more job responsibilities this semester as the former West Side RHA intern, Julianne Wheeler, is studying in Rome. Hoelscher was under the impression that she would be taking on a position that facilitated events in both the East and West side dorms to fill Wheeler’s absence.
“I respect the decisions of the University to use its funds as it best sees fit,” Baker said of the loss of RHA. “My primary concern was for the cut to student labor that had to be made across campus.”
Before RHA was disbanded, the event program had to deal with major budget constraints last semester, which greatly reduced the amount of finances RHA representatives could use towards events. One of the events they were able to plan and participate in was a collaboration with the Campus Activities Board for the annual tradition of Fall Fest. The Battle of the Bands, club performances and student booths were among the major aspects of Fall Fest RHA helped coordinate.
RHA also had just launched a new initiative called Open Forums, where students could complete a survey and provide general feedback to RHA representatives in the lounge of each traditional dorm.
The Open Forums provided “a more direct avenue of communications,” Hoelscher said. The Student Government had discontinued hall representatives earlier in the fall. In an attempt to make up for the lack of representation from traditional halls, Open Forms allowed RHA to hear student concerns about their residences.
RHA subsequently became more “involved with hall improvements,” according to Hoelscher, providing supplies such as board games and air fresheners to dorms.
While Hoelscher admitted the loss of her income is a difficult change, she viewed “not being able to be as directly involved in campus life [as] a more personal loss than losing [her] job.”
“The discontinuation of the RHA program is disappointing because of the importance of serving students in the residence halls and working to improve that area of student life,” Hoelscher said.
Michael Ullrich, the former RHA representative for Theresa Hall and a freshman considering majoring in Politics, said in an email, “We will, without this, have less of these fun community events, though I know the RAs are doing their part to pick up the slack.”
“RHA was very good at allowing students to take ownership of the events in the residence halls,” Baker said upon reflection of RHA’s influence in previous years.
A document shared with the RHA interns and Hall representatives declares the RHA Mission Statement: “The University of Dallas Residence Hall Association is a student-led organization focused on building community and hall spirit in the traditional halls through student programming and hall improvement.”
Although RAs in each of the dorms will definitely work to continue planning fun student events and activities, the decrease in the amount of ownership the students have in building their own communities is one consequence of cutting the RHA program.
With the loss of RHA, Hoelscher said, students have to deal with “less support and fewer avenues to address their needs.”