RHA, in the midst of restructuring, is seeking student funding requests
The Residence Hall Association (RHA) is the student government body that represents and serves the residents living on Willamette’s campus. RHA Executive Director Aidan Lawrence-Devine, Director of Programming Hannah Jones and the Director of Communications Morgan Davis discussed what RHA has been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic and what they are doing now.
RHA serves two major functions: they vote on funding requests as a general assembly and they work on projects to improve or enhance resident life through a collection of committees. The funding for requests and projects comes from a portion of the housing activities fee that every resident pays as part of their room and board. Jones said, “emphasizing that [RHA’s funding] comes directly from those that live on campus is huge because a lot of people don’t realize how much they actually contribute to RHA without ever really being a part of it.” Lawrence-Devine jokingly added: “We have your money, now tell us what to do with it.”
Any resident can make a [funding request]to improve some aspect of resident life. Once you fill out the form using the link above, you will be contacted by Morgan Schetter, the student director of administration, and then asked to present it to the General Assembly (GA) when they vote on it. The GA then decides if they will approve it in a vote.
Lawrence-Devine, Jones and Davis invite more funding requests from students outside of RHA. RHA has funded a variety of requests in the past proposed by residents, from a Minecraft server to new shower curtains on the 3rd floor in Lausanne Hall to a trivia night done by the Disability Advocacy Club. As Jones puts it: “People think that it needs to be something physical for the residence halls, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.” They emphasized funds can be used for a lot of different things.
RHA has completed a myriad of projects for campus residents this year despite COVID-19, such as the pumpkin painting party and destress week. This has been possible for them to do because they made the events longer to allow social distancing and create more time for small groups of people to drop by and then leave. Jones says the success of this strategy last semester will allow her to do even better things this spring. She says: “I’m really looking forward to using what I learned in the past semesters specifically dealing with COVID and using those skills and lessons this semester to do more with the time and resources I have.” RHA also worked with Willamette Integrated Technology Services (WITS) to facilitate a better Wi-Fi experience for residents last fall. Some changes were made over winter break by WITS, but Lawrence-Devine says RHA will continue pushing for Wi-Fi improvements. RHA also obtained reusable bags for Goudy that will be distributed to residents in the upcoming weeks. Lawrence-Devine said they decided to do this “so residents can help reduce the waste that comes with all this remote eating.” Finally, all residence halls got new vacuum cleaners ordered, and will be in place in the halls soon.
RHA is planning to throw out the old committee structure of programming, advocacy and outreach for a system of a need-by-need basis. This spring, they passed a bill that will radically restructure the organizational structure. Committees will become long term bodies that oversee work groups, short term bodies that exist for the duration of a specific project. Lawrence-Devine said that “however we happen to change the committees, we will maintain the themes: advocacy, programming and providing leadership opportunities for people,” and continue “to get involved wherever we can to help people.” The RHA Board of Directors want committees to be better situated and more productive in accomplishing specific projects, rather than meeting for the sake of meeting. In the past, there has been difficulty defining committees, which led to different committees overlapping and doing the same kind of work.
Lawrence-Devine says if a student is interested in advocating for their fellow residents, they are actively recruiting and to reach out to your RA or to the Board of Directors at https://willamette.edu/org/rha or <rha-exec>. The time commitment is two hours a week: one spent at the general assembly meeting 7-8 p.m. every Thursday, and one spent at the committee you choose to serve on. To summarize, the many great benefits the Board of Directors say that RHA has to offer: RHA is a place to develop leadership skills, to accomplish things that directly impact the residents and to get experience accomplishing things. The dynamic they care about is fostering a collaborative community that supports people’s creativity and allows people to get as much out of it as they put into it. Jones said, “It’s better to be more of a delegator and overseer to foster new ideas and build skills, rather than be a dictator and just tell everybody what to do.” Davis said: “The dynamics I want to focus on is self-initiation. Just coming up with your own ideas and working on it as a team.”
If you have concerns about resident life, you can reach out to your RAs or Area Coordinators but you are also free to email Lawrence-Devine at <ajlawrencedevine> for any advocacy concerns. For other updates, follow and pay attention to their Instagram @willamette_rha to see what fun things and events are going on as RHA does a lot of programming.