Updated: Oct. 23, 2017 at 12:13 p.m.
The Residence Hall Association filled 98 percent of hall council seats this academic year, the most in recent years, the organization’s leaders said.
In elections last month, the RHA filled 132 of a total possible 135 seats in its 27 hall councils responsible for creating social activities and organizing advocacy efforts in each residence hall. RHA officials said the jump in student participation is likely linked to increased outreach to freshmen, new programming and a new rule that allows students to change the position they’re running for after they see how many others are vying for the same spot.
RHA President Rachel Metz said more participation in the hall councils provides more opportunities for halls to create their own programming. It also allows members – who assumed their roles last month – to divide tasks and share the weight of planning events. The RHA filled an average of 84 percent of its council seats in the last two years, she said.
This year, 23 of 27 councils have all five elected positions filled.
“The more people in the hall that are represented, the more voices you have,” she said. “They usually live in different rooms, they have different roommates, they hear different concerns so you have a better opportunity to advocate for positive changes.”
“People are just really eager to be in leadership and get involved and it’s really exciting.”
Rebranding the RHA logo, social media pages and the group’s website also helped to draw in new members, Metz said. She said that fuller councils allow for more decorating, events and opportunities to engage with students living in their halls.
Andrée Maling, the RHA’s director of operations, said the increase was largely the result of a new candidate policy – implemented at the start of the academic year – that allows candidates to switch the position they are running for after seeing how many others are competing for that spot, or to switch to a vacant position. She said the policy allowed students who wouldn’t have ended up on the council at all – after losing a race for a competitive spot like president or vice president – to have a seat at the table.
“You had halls where five people were running for president, but no one was running for treasurer and then someone filled for treasurer,” she said. “People are just really eager to be in leadership and get involved and it’s really exciting.”
Hall councils are largely responsible for leading residence hall-specific events and advocacy within their residence halls, according to the RHA website.
Maling said the variety of RHA events at the beginning of the year, like the Bed, Bath & Beyond pop-up sale in District House during Welcome Week and the pool party on the Mount Vernon Campus, also got more people involved with the RHA early in the academic year.
She said there have been times in the past where halls had just one person on council and they had to handle all of the council’s responsibilities on their own, but this year’s council will be “more cohesive” bodies.
Thurston Hall President George Glass said he ran for the council position because he wanted to join an organization that could help the student body.
“The dorm overall was a pretty anti-social one and I wanted to really get the best shot at making the Aston a much more social place.”
“I’m a PoliSci major and I want to hold public office,” he said. “I wanted to join an organization and be in a position where I could do that and RHA was there.”
Glass said he keeps a note on his phone with a list of grievances or suggestions from students in the building, like adding water bottle fountains and opening up the Thurston roof for different functions.
RHA leaders said some halls that don’t normally have a full council had more applications this year, like Mitchell Hall and The Aston, a residential house for law and other graduate students.
Edwin Ward, a graduate student and the president of RHA’s council for The Aston, said his hall, which consists of 12 studio apartments on each of its 10 residential floors, lacked a sense of community when he moved in and he wanted to encourage more interaction among residents.
Ward said he wants to push for additional outdoor amenities in the hall’s enclosed courtyard and some RHA sponsored events for residents to get acquainted with each other.
“The dorm overall was a pretty anti-social one and I wanted to really get the best shot at making the Aston a much more social place,” he said in an email.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that The Aston residential house consists of 12 students living in studio apartments. There are 12 studio apartments on each of The Aston’s 10 floors. We regret this error.