Recently, I (along with my fellow executive board members of the Residence Hall Association) have been accused of being a mediocre leader, as well as an “RHA insider” who was a “chosen leader-to-be” (“Democracy needed in RHA elections,” The GW Hatchet, Feb. 2, p.4).
Although I can only speak for myself, I would like to address these allegations. As secretary of RHA, I have the privilege of being a “student leader” of one of the largest and most important student organizations on campus. Why is this a privilege for me? Because I see the great responsibility and opportunity this position presents me.
One year ago, I was not the one who many thought would be RHA secretary for this school year. Instead, I am an example of someone who took the time to make a commitment to three hall councils during three years, and then decided to use my experience to better RHA and its membership.
I convinced my peers to vote for me, and therefore upset past cycles of pre-determined RHA leadership. If I have anything to do with it, this year’s e-board will not be hand picking next year’s, this practice is finished.
In light of recent controversy, it appears to me that many RHA voting members and other residents think that the RHA executive board is vehemently against open elections. I wish it was that easy.
Personally, I am torn because I see positives and negatives of both the current system and an open election system. My own opinion is that in theory, open elections are good. I do believe that leaders should be directly elected by their constituencies.
However, at this time, I do not think it is practical. Running a hall council is not easy. Often it is a group of five to 15 people who meet every other week to plan a few events. The only time new faces are seen is in a time of uproar – at housing lottery time, when people feel they need cable in their rooms or when the computer labs are not up to par.
Because of the apathy many hall councils experience, I feel that extending voting rights only to RHA representatives – who explicitly are elected to represent their constituents – is right, for now.
Take for instance that in almost every hall constitution it states that RHA representatives are just that: representatives responsible for reporting to the RHA leadership and to their residents, all concerns, problems and pertinent information. Being a representative is a two-way street, and in reality should be a job that takes up more than the weekly one-hour meeting.
Therefore, when RHA representatives vote in elections and on all motions, they should be voting their constituents’ beliefs. This is their responsibility. It is obvious to me, and should be to others, that if RHA representatives are doing their jobs, their constituents are being served.
In closing, I would like to stress that RHA is not, and never should be, the Student Association. We have different constituencies, and this has worked for more than 40 years. Those RHA serves are a specialized, specific group: residents in the University’s 15 halls.
We have a system of representative government in place, and although it may not be perfect, it should not be changed simply to allow more people to vote. Only when there is a better, viable alternative, should this change be made. In my opinion, that has not yet occurred.
If heightened awareness is the driving force behind an open election system, I challenge hall representatives to let their residents know that RHA is an advocate for them. Additionally, I would like to remind everyone that RHA meets every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center (Room 439). We always have a period of “general resident concerns” when anyone, voting member or not, can voice their concerns. It would be my pleasure to see new faces this week and every week at RHA. You will be welcomed.-The writer is secretary of the Residence Hall Association.