More than 10,000 University students live in the 16 residence halls scattered throughout campus. The organization that serves as the voice of the residents recently won a regional award recognizing its work on behalf of students.
The University’s Residence Halls Association was awarded Large School of the Year at the 2004 Great Lakes Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls. Yesterday the association held a reception to celebrate winning the award this month.
The award indicates that the quality of the association’s role as a representative for students living in the University’s residence halls surpassed other schools in the Great Lakes regions.
The board members said their biggest accomplishment has been working to increase transportation going from North Campus to Central Campus. In the last year, they have succeeded in persuading the University to add a bus stop at Oxford House.
“A third of our constituency lives on North Campus and we want to make sure they can get to Central Campus on time,” RHA President Amy Keller said. The LSA senior was also the recipient of the Student of the Year Award for her leadership of the organization. Keller said the organization is still working to add more bus stops to North Campus.
A related accomplishment was the association’s involvement with the housing crunch this fall, when upperclassmen from Baits and Bursley residence halls were relocated to Family Housing apartments so that all freshmen could be placed in University housing.
The association’s other suggestions for making off-campus housing more appealing to upperclassmen and opening enough residence hall space for freshmen have yet to be acted on, but members of the University Board of Regents have expressed interest at looking into the possibilities.
“We haven’t made a lot of progress because it’s still kind of new,” said Tom Brenner the association’s vice president of finance, referring to the association’s recommendations on the housing crunch. “But we’re still looking to help out (upperclassmen on North Campus) because it’s pretty isolated.”
RHA Executive assistant and LSA senior Jeff Souva pointed to a number of efforts by the association that proved its competence in understanding the needs of its students.
Among these was its work during the last presidential election. Because solicitation is not allowed in the residence halls, Souva said, the association lobbied to allow the Michigan Student Assembly’s Voice Your Vote commission access to the dorms for its voter registration drives.
“We collaborated with MSA so that Voice Your Vote ended up registering thousands of voters in the residence halls,” Souva said.
Other accomplishments board members pointed out were involvement with the Residential Life Initiative, a University program to revitalize residential life on campus with a new residence hall in place of the Frieze Building and a new dining hall in the Hill area. Souva said the association has student members on all of the University’s RLI committees, with Keller serving on University President Mary Sue Coleman’s task force to ensure that the new residence halls complies with students’ needs.
The organization receives $25 from each resident at the beginning of the year and is responsible for allocating the funds to different projects it deems important.
The association consists of representatives from every living community’s multicultural and hall councils. Once a part of the association, the representatives can then be elected to hold executive board positions. Most of the association’s work is done by collecting feedback from residents and bringing them to the attention of the University’s Transportation department as well as to Housing director Carole Henry and vice president for student affairs, E. Royster Harper.