A Residence Halls Association’s assembly resolution to compensate its executive board has prompted criticism from the executive branch of the LSA Student Government.
The resolution was approved by RHA on April 4 with 27 out of 30 members in favor. If approved by the director of housing, $20,700 of RHA funds will be earmarked as compensation for its seven-member executive board.
An April 8 executive statement from LSA SG affirmed the organization supports the goal behind compensating executive board members as the proposal removes financial barriers for students interested in joining the board. However, LSA SG executives feel the problem lies with the fact that the compensation would come from the RHA funds, which are largely collected through student fees.
LSA SG President Brian Wang, an LSA junior, said students pay $24.75 in student fees that are allocated to the RHA. Wang echoed the executive statement, saying it would be better for RHA to provide events and services to the students they serve rather than to pay its members. He said elected representatives should serve because they feel a calling to the role with no expectation of pay.
“We do it because we love it and we have the opportunity to do it,” Wang said. “We recognize that we have an opportunity to make change on campus and that our time that we put into this is purely volunteer work and it’s not something that we feel needs to be compensated for.”
Wang cited a 2017 Central Student Government resolution to pay members that was vetoed by then-CSG president Anushka Sarkar. The veto came on the heels of the creation of the Leadership Engagement Scholarship, a CSG and Office of Student Life award that offers a small group of students financial support for the cost of membership dues as well as providing compensation for the unpaid time devoted to their student organizations.
In a statement released following her veto, Sarkar expressed concerns of potential power dynamics created by intergovernmental payment systems as well as the public release of student financial records.
RHA brands itself as the University’s residence hall governance. On its website, RHA advertises its Pre-Class Bash, the Plants in the Hall! initiative and Siblings Weekend as recent accomplishments.
The association has been criticized in the past for an “extremely difficult” work environment leading one former executive board member to resign in 2018, and for its use of funds to send North Quad Multicultural Council members on a service trip to Peru in 2011.
In an email to The Daily, RHA President Brianna Marble, LSA junior, declined an interview on behalf of the executive board, but wrote the board is looking forward to further discussion about their decision.
“As of right now, the Executive Board will not be taking any interviews,” Marble wrote. “We are excited to continue the conversation on this topic with Housing and the future Executive Board.”
In the resolution, the RHA stated its executive board works 10 to 12 hours each week while working without receiving compensation, whereas RAs work 20 hours per week and receive full room and board plus additional compensation, totaling $11,020 on average. The RHA wrote the compensation available through being an RA could potentially encourage low-income residents to first seek out an RA position before an RHA position.
Ultimately, the RHA wrote the resolution would encourage low-income students to apply to and join the executive board as well as students currently on the board to serve more terms. The association wrote this will allow for a greater ability to enact change within the halls because of the learning curve associated with serving on the board, sometimes hindering progress for members in their first term.
Business freshman Fallon Renehan, a current Bursley Residence Hall resident, acknowledged the RHA’s and resident advisers’ hard work, but said she feels using the money for dorm activities should take priority over compensating the RHA executive board.
“Personally, I feel like dorm activities are really important for kids who don’t have other opportunities and I feel like although the RHA board does a good job, they are there for the kids,” Renehan said. “Paying them and taking away from the ability to do their job well — which would be to put on dorm activities like that for kids — would be more important.”
One RA, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution, said compensation for the position would encourage more students to seek out these roles, which would ultimately make the organization better. He also noted RHA’s failure in the past to do meaningful work and said keeping the money for student activities would not make those events any more effective.
“Having a paid position in RHA and LSA Student Government — which they don’t have, but some parties have pushed for in the past — will naturally make the positions more competitive,” the RA said. “They’ll put added pressure on them to do more. The RHA hasn’t been especially effective. They haven’t really added to campus very much, and I think being on the executive board is work and work should be compensated.”