Wednesday, October 15, 2008

GXC Launches Monday, Oct. 20

The Diamondback ran my article about GoCrossCampus today in the Opinion Section of the Diamondback- make sure to check it out! GXC is an innovative way to build community on-campus and engage students in something campuses across the country are taking part in. The game has the potential to become a new tradition at the University, so make sure to tell all your friends and lobby peers to join your team!

The RHA will be hosting a pizza party for the winning team as a way to reward those dedicated to the game's launch and to allow students to interact with one another face-to-face. To get a one up on your opponents, feel free to browse the rules of the game at: Please feel free to e-mail the RHA at for any specific questions you may have about the game.

Below is the original copy of the article I submitted to the Diamondback, please note that in the Diamondback version they incorrectly changed the date's launch to say it will be happening this Saturday. Please let anyone know that the game will be launching this Monday, NOT this Saturday. Enjoy!:

It’s 3:00 and you just got back from a long day of classes. You’re too exhausted to start homework and instead decide you need some time to relax. Let’s face it, there’s nothing good on T.V. yet and stalking people on facebook can get a little old. Why not try something new?

The Residence Hall Association (RHA) will be launching the University of Maryland’s first GoCrossCampus (GXC) game this Monday, October 20. The game will last for about two months and all students are encouraged to take advantage of the pure, addictive fun the game will no doubt provide.

GXC is a massive online campus-wide and team-based game kind of like RISK but made specifically for college campuses. The goal of the game is to conquer the most territories on the custom-made University of Maryland campus map while expelling all other teams. The great draw to the game is that rather than just having one person per team, there are entire housing community’s, in addition to an off-campus team, battling against each other to take over the territories that students interact with every day.

The beauty of GXC lies in the fact that students can decide how much, or how little, time to put into it. There are no real commitments. The game does have tons of cool features for those who do become particularly engaged in the battle, such as the ability to nominate, or impeach, a commander, catch a spy, and engage in team chats, to name a few.

The RHA is extremely excited about launching the campus’s first GXC game and cannot wait to see what it does for this campus. GXC prides itself on the game’s ability to build school spirit and to create a sense of community- two things the RHA is very serious about. We see GXC as a great way to start a campus-wide tradition that has the ability to excite students about interacting with one another and uniting around a common goal.

What’s even more exciting is the prize the winning team will receive! The RHA will provide the victorious team with a pizza party as a way to reward those team members for their dedication to the University’s first GXC game. The party will serve as a chance to interact in person with fellow teammates and celebrate the success of the game.

So why not be a part of this monumental event? There is no pressure and no time commitment in order to be involved. The game has already been widely successful at schools like Yale, Harvard, Boston College, Ithaca College, the University of Massachusetts and so on. This is a great way to take part in an event that will no doubt become widely known on campus.

To join the game, on October 20th go to and create an account. The game is completely free and completely fun. For more specific questions, feel free to e-mail the RHA at or visit our website at Our blog, located at, will be discussing the game as well, so stay posted!

Alicia Hartlove
Public Relations Officer

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Parking and the DOTS Dilemma

Freshman winter was particularly cold. For me at least. I would make the half-mile trek from Somerset Hall to Lot 6 at least twice a week. The times I forgot my keys embarrasingly multiplies that number. Still, I had a car and that car gave me independence. After all, I could always leave.

Many of next year's freshmen will have no such option. An increase in demand, construction projects, and enviromental initiatives have put a defecit on parking spaces next year. As a result, it is projected that many freshmen will not be able to bring cars when they move into their new home this fall.

The Deportment of Transportation Services (DOTS) must find ways to minimize this defecit.

Faculty currently have top priority for parking followed by commuters and finally residents. DOTS has this priority order right. After all, without teachers we would not have a university. Commuters also need parking to engage in the university at a most basic level. If a shortage exists, unfortunately it is the residents that must accept that burden.

While the negative effects of the burden rightly fall on residents, DOTS must recognize that the price is not small for us. The university is our home. When a person cannot have a car at their home it impacts everyday functions in thier life. Meals and eating habits change with reduced access to grocery stores. Employment opportunities fade without access to them. Visits to family and friends also become impractical. When people cannot keep a car at home their life changes. Freshmen residents at the university are no different.

DOTS has a responsibility to reduce the parking defecit so that next year's freshmen can receive cars. This means two things. First and most importantly, DOTS must not allow empty spaces on campus to go unfilled. Secondly, Transportation Services must introduce initiatives that will encourage alternative methods of transportation.

Many options exist on the second point. David Allen, who currently serves as the director of DOTS, has already proposed a carpooling plan that would free up spaces while rewarding its participants. Encouraging local residents, especially those like myself in Courtyards and the View, should be encouraged to take public transportation instead of taking an extra space. Motorcyling and bicycling options should also be enhanced to create space. DOTS should implement these excellent ideas by next year to reduce the burden on freshmen residents.

DOTS and the administration should not underestimate the impacts that will come from lacking access to a car their freshmen year. For some it may be a luxury, but to others it is a beam in their lives. Simple initiatives can create space that will help students keep cars at their temporary homes. While commuters and faculty rightfully maintain priority, resident students should not accept and DOTS should not allow any shortage to become needlessly far-reaching.

Danny Leydorf
Student Groups and Organizations Liaison

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

DOTS to limit Parking Permits to underclassmen

The Department of Transportation Services (DOTS) has sold 600 fewer parking permits than last year due to construction taking place near Lot 1. There will be even fewer spaces in Lot 2 when construction starts on the new Denton community. Who does this affect?

The students of course but we have been provided a way to voice our opinions. Director of DOTS David Allen says this will especially affect freshmen and sophomores. Freshmen and sophomores have been able to register for permits in the past but now only a select few might be able to.

Here's where you and your Residence Hall Association (RHA) comes in. Director Allen will start dialogue with your elected representatives to decide who gets priority over parking spots.

How to be heard:
Get involved!

Read the Diamondback article. DOTS sold 600 fewer permits than last year - News

Posted by: Josef K. Mensah, Vice President

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Your Execs Attend the Invitational Forum on Leadership Issues (iFli)

A few weeks ago your RHA execs were invited to attend the Invitational Forum on Leadership Issues (iFli) and decided this would be a great opportunity to connect with other student leaders around the campus as well as influential faculty members. Tonight proved that iFli was just that!

As mentioned, iFli consisted of representatives from various student leadership groups on campus, as well as an extensive list of important faculty members, including President Mote. The main focus of the forum was discussing the University's strategic plan. The overall goal of the strategic plan is to enhance every aspect of the University by giving specific bench marks and objectives to achieve these overall aspirations. Your student leaders were broken up according to issues brought up in the strategic plan and brainstormed, with your administrators, ideas of making all of this possible.

An issue that specifically concerns many students living both on and off campus that was discussed is transforming the surrounding community. Your RHA execs gave special voice to advocating for the development of East Campus and improving the Rt.1 area to foster this sense of community. Many students, and visitors, find the the College Park area to be rather sparse concerning the amount of activities available. The development of East Campus would bring along more high-end retail, nicer hotels, a variety of restaurants, entertainment and conference facilities. East Campus has the potential to transform downtown College Park into an admirable area that students and residents of the area could enjoy and take advantage of. Another issue your execs voiced their strong support for was increased housing both on and off campus. In order to embrace a feeling of community, students must feel comfortable in their housing options. Making more housing available to students off campus would help to alleviate the fear of making the transition from on to off campus housing. Additionally, providing more on campus housing would help to meet the strong demand of students who already enjoy living on campus more available. Among the other issues discussed were improving safety on and off campus, re-structuring the CORE general education requirements, and improvements to undergraduate and graduate education. Please take time to view the University's strategic plan at:

If you would like to voice your specific concerns or ideas about the strategic plan, please e-mail us at

Alicia Hartlove, Public Relations Officer

Friday, September 5, 2008

Interested in Progress and Change?

The Diamondback editorial printed on September 3rd, Call and Response discusses some of the efforts made by the Department of Resident Life to alleviate the housing crunch which everyone was so painfully aware of at our University.

The three main strategies employed by DRL were earlier notice, doubling up in some rooms in Courtyards, and limiting leasing in South Campus Commons. All three of these "solutions" were formulated in conjunction with the Residence Hall Association. The first was decided immediately after the April 2007 announcement, and the last two were suggested through legislation passed in the RHA senate during the 2007-2008 academic year. It is great to see the hard work of our student leaders recognized, and know that it is truly improving our campus.

These are perfect examples of how your representatives are working to better the lives of our 10,000 resident students. Do you see what you are capable of changing? Do you see the difference you can make for yourself and others? I encourage you all to get involved in our organization, you can truly be productive. If you want to represent your peers, apply for a hall or area council position on our website If you just want your voice heard, go and vote on September 16th and 17th for your representatives, and then let them know when an issue arises.

There are so many opportunities for University of Maryland students to BE INVOLVED!

We will have an Open House on September 10th at 7pm in the Cambridge Community Center if you have questions about different available positions in your community.
Any other questions, feel free to email us at

Posted by: Alex Beuchler, President

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Welcome Back!

It's hard to believe the summer is over, but we are looking forward to a great and successful year for the RHA. Your execs have already been hard at work planning for the upcoming year. Tomorrow, Sept.3, the Diamondback will be featuring an editorial in the Opinion section about all the RHA accomplished last year, what we are looking ahead to, and finally some very important dates. Make sure you check it out, but if you can't, I've included it here:

The University of Maryland is no doubt a large and sometimes intimidating campus. With about 25,000 undergrads, over 300 student groups, 27 varsity sports teams and more than 100 majors, it is easy to slip through the cracks and go unnoticed. The beauty of this university, however, is that getting involved and voicing your opinions about issues you want to see changed or improved is extremely simple and even more gratifying. The University of Maryland’s Residence Hall Association strives to foster this mentality and aid the students’ voices in being heard and recognized by administrators.

The RHA is one of the most prestigious student government organizations that focuses primarily on issues concerning the on-campus student body. The organization is comprised of student representatives from the thirteen hall/area councils on campus. These students are elected to voice their constituents’ concerns and wishes to the university departments that deal with residential issues such as Resident Life, Residential Facilities, Transportation and Dining Services. As the premier lobbying group for residential students, the senators sit on committees where they directly meet with the directors of the four aforementioned departments. In addition to the policy-related branch of the RHA, the hall/area councils include other positions aimed at building a sense of community in their particular residential area and, ultimately, the campus as a whole.

In the past year, the RHA worked tirelessly to serve its constituents in order to bring about positive change and improvement around the campus. For example, you may have noticed “Late Night” at the diner appear during finals week last semester. The RHA heard the student population and successfully lobbied the Department of Dining Services to pilot this program for the first time ever. Also, in order to better convenience the student population, the RHA constantly met with the Department of Residential Facilities to push for wireless internet and peep-holes in all the residence halls. Thanks to your representatives, both of these amenities are now staples in the residence halls. Reforming Nite Ride has been another issue the RHA has continually voiced. Students were frustrated with the long wait time, and as a result, additional resources have been allocated to Nite Ride in order to improve upon this service. Also in the same realm of transportation issues, the RHA was the first student group to endorse the Campus Drive alignment of the Purple Line after several presentations and much contemplation. Underlying all of these accomplishments was the continual passage of legislation aimed at making our campus more “green.” In order to thoroughly tackle this initiative, the RHA created an ad-hoc sustainability committee which will serve as an advising group to the university departments.

Seeing students’ wishes recognized on campus is an exciting experience, and for that reason, the RHA is always looking forward to even more ways to serve the on campus population. This fall will be the first mixed-gender housing pilot to take place on campus, and the RHA is anxiously awaiting results to measure the success of the program we advocated for. While the RHA was triumphant in encouraging Dining Services to eliminate focus dates for sophomores, we will continue to advocate for the complete elimination of focus dates for all students. In reaction to the current exciting political climate, the RHA will also be working with Terps Vote, a committee armed with advocating for student involvement in the national elections. Finally, the RHA will continue to lobby the Board of Regents for more student housing in order to ensure that students can obtain the living experience they desire.

As you can see, the RHA is a great way to positively affect the on campus environment. Not only does the organization serve as a tool to mediate change, but is a great way to get involved, forge relationships, and make this large campus feel a bit smaller. To learn more about the RHA please visit and All are welcomed and encouraged to attend our open house on Wednesday, September 10th where students can ask specific questions and gain insight about each available position. Hall/Area Council elections will be taking place on Tuesday, September 16th and Wednesday, September 17th. Don’t miss out on an amazing opportunity to make a difference on your campus. After all, what have you got to lose?

Alicia Hartlove, Public Relations Officer

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Support for the Purple Line

On February 26th, 2008, the RHA passed a resolution supporting the Campus Drive Alignment for the Purple Line. The following letter was written when we joined the committee in support of the construction of the Purple Line. The blog for the Terps for the Purple line is

University of Maryland Community,

With all of the resources at and within close reach of the University of Maryland, it doesn’t seem like students should ever need to leave College Park. Of course, we recognize that this is not realistic. Our students need to travel home, visit museums and sites in our nation’s capital for class and pleasure, and occasionally just get a change of scenery. Based on this, it is clear that there needs to be effective methods of transportation out of – and back to – our beloved College Park.

With only a few major roads out of College Park, constant traffic, and rising gas prices, we are lucky to have a metro station located just minutes away at Paint Branch Parkway, served by ShuttleUM. Unfortunately, the green line is not the most convenient, efficient or far-reaching means of getting around the DC area. To get to other cities along the outskirts of the metro lines, you must ride all the way into the city, switch lines and travel back out. This is extremely time consuming and inconvenient, especially during heavy travel times.

The plans for the East Campus Development also create a need for additional access routes to College Park. Revamping the area around our campus is extremely important in fostering a greater sense of community. It would be a terrible waste of planning and funding if visitors don’t have another easy option for visiting our wonderful University of Maryland Community.

For these reasons, the Residence Hall Association (RHA) at the University of Maryland supports the development of the Purple Line. This line will connect the ends of the Red Line (Bethesda and Silver Spring), Green Line (College Park) and the Orange Line (New Carrolton). The Purple Line would be extremely helpful in making these locations accessible to Maryland students.

If we are encouraging students to expand their minds, both inside AND outside the classroom, we, as a University community, need to support this initiative which will provide them with a safe and convenient method of doing so. The Campus Drive alignment, officially sanctioned by the RHA on February 26th, 2008, will be the best opportunity for students to travel from Prince George’s County to Montgomery County and back, changing campus life for the better. Students living at the University of Maryland deserve the ability to explore the area without the need to pump expensive gas or to spend hours switching metro lines to get to a town less than 20 miles away. The Residence Hall Association is pleased to join the other student and community groups to support the Purple Line.

For any questions or concerns about the RHA’s position, please do not hesitate to contact us at


Alexandra Beuchler
President, Residence Hall Association - - - 301-314-9679

Posted by: Alex Beuchler, President

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Late Night Study Isn't Going Anywhere!

Thanks to the work of many concerned students, the administration has decided to keep Late Night study as it currently exists. Desider Vikor, the new Dean of Libraries, sent me the following message today, which is being distributed to library employees. It just goes to show how productive students can be when they join together to voice their concerns!

"I am writing to let you know that the McKeldin Library Late Night Study
Service will continue uninterrupted and unchanged. As has been the practice in
previous years, the service will start 2 weeks into the semester, on September 14, 2008, and will run 14 weeks through final exams. The service will open again 2-3 weeks into the spring semester. Late Night Study Service is a unique campus service that is offered 5 days a week (Sunday-Thursday nights) during the academic year.
--Desider Vikor"

Posted by: Alex Beuchler, President

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Social Security Number on Parking Mailer

Early in July, a brochure was sent out to University of Maryland Students with parking information. Unfortunately, printed on these mailers were students' social security numbers.

The Department of Transportation Services, in conjunction with Student Affairs, will be providing free Equifax services for students who register by September 10th. To find out more about this service, go to

Also, you can place a fraud alert on your credit by going to

If you still have your mailer, black out the number or shred the document before throwing it away. At this point, this is unfortunately the only option we have to correct this error.

Any other questions can be directed to the University at 1-877-935-2428

Posted by: Alex Beuchler, President

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Late Night at the Library

Word has been circulating that late night at the library will be ending. When? We're not sure. Why? We're not sure. The only thing students really know is that this can not happen.

There has already been a Facebook group started to show opposition to the idea.

Students need the space to read, study and get work done. We are here for an education and need a place to aid in our success to our academic endeavors. I know as much as anyone else, we are busy during the day, and sometimes those late night hours are the few hours we have between classes and meetings to finish that paper you have due!

To voice your concern for the late night issue, please email Provost Farvardin, Dean Lowry, and Dean Vikor (,,

Posted by: Alex Beuchler, President

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Your Student Reps visit Cape Town, South Africa

From May 14 to May 26, 2008, Department of Resident Life Director Deb Grandner took two staff members and five student leaders on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa for a student leadership conference hosted by ACUHO-International (Association of College and University Housing Officers-International). Among those student leaders were three RHA representatives, former President 2007 - 2008, Sumner Handy, President Alex Beuchler, and yours truly, Vice-President Josef Mensah. Student leaders from across the southern region of Africa (mostly from the country of South Africa) gathered to discuss issues pertaining to leadership structures on campus, what resident students face, and what resident student leaders can do to be more effective for their constituents.

Cape Town, South Africa

The student leadership conference proved that though we may have differences when it comes to identity or geographic location, the role as an on-campus student and on-campus student representative should not and cannot be taken lightly. We were met with some of the brightest and most passionate student leaders that southern Africa had to offer. Living just fourteen years after the end of apartheid, legalized segregation in South Africa, student leaders there are met with a unique challenge to work towards student unity, and deal with political and social pressures outside the campus.

What was personally enlightening was to realize how unique the RHA's structure is on the University of Maryland campus. The fact that we remain autonomous from Student Affairs and are elected by residents is a truly special attribute of our organization. We maintain a good working relationship with university staff yet we answer to our students. We have the opportunity to recommend on-campus policy and be taken seriously on those matters. On the programming side our hall/area councils have come up with great ideas that keep students involved and build community.

While I hope that other student leaders learned a lot from us, I am very sure we learned a lot from them. Have you ever thought about our campus's policy for pregnant students? Have you ever thought about how international students studying abroad are integrated onto our campus? Have you ever thought of what it would be like if our campus and residence halls lacked diversity? Those are only a few of the questions that students in southern Africa deal with. It reminded me how important it is to maintain passion and drive to create change on campus.

From left to right: Josef Mensah, RHA VP; Sumner Handy , Former RHA Pres (07 - 08); Alex Beuchler, RHA Pres; Pearl, Univ. of Free State; Jamar Mancano, Univ. of MD RA; Jessica Jacques, Univ of MD RA.

I was very interested in how certain schools like the University of Western Cape used block captains (what we would call floor representatives) to engage students in programming. It got me thinking about how we could better utilize floor reps in order to get students involved in leadership and get other students involved in campus life whether by policy or programs.

I also learned that one size does NOT fit all when it comes to finding solutions as student leaders. Although our RHA structure works at UMD, it probably wouldn't work as well at Marquette University, a private college in Wisconsin that was also present. However, there are lessons that we can learn from each other and techniques that we can take in order to give our respective constituents what they need.

After returning last Monday, I'm very excited to start working on issues pertaining to our on-campus students. The RHA Execs have already begun working together and I must say that I think the year is going to go very well with those on board. Get involved; get excited! This year is going to be great!

See everyone in August!

Posted by: Josef Mensah, Vice President

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Looking ahead

This was a great year for the RHA, and we will miss our executive board members who are leaving, but we are also very excited to welcome our new team members!

President- Alex Beuchler
Vice President- Josef Mensah
Public Relations and Outreach- Alicia Hartlove
Student Groups Liaison- Danny Leydorf
National Communications Chair- Mitchell Amoros
Finance Officer- Rachael Vieder
Administrative Officer- Caroline Coates
CIO- Uneeb Qureshi

All of our new execs have already gotten started on their RHA work, even though finals just ended. The 2008-2009 academic year looks promising for on-campus students with the new team leading the way.

We look forward to working for our many constituents, and are very interested in hearing about your concerns. Our website ( is under construction, but still accessible. We can all also be reached at Please do not hesitate to contact us with your concerns!

Enjoy the summer!

Alex Beuchler, President

Monday, May 12, 2008

RHA/NRHH Year End Reception

We are so glad that so many of our RHA and NRHH members plan on attending our Year End Reception! It is a great time to have fun and recognize the hard work of our student leaders.

Due to such high demand, we will be moving into the Atrium, so we can accommodate all of our guests. The Clark School of Engineering Ambassadors Dinner was kind enough to switch locations with us, which is much appreciated.

Please pass along the change of venue to all your council members and NRHH members.
Same time. DIFFERENT place.

Atrium, SSU
Business Casual
Light food and refreshments

We look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by: Alex Beuchler, Vice President

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

McKeldin, My McKeldin

It's almost like they knew this was going to happen... DBK is absolutely right in their staff editorial. We know funds are tight - they're tight for everything. But we need to fund our libraries, and part of that is infrastructure (a topic not addressed in the staff ed). While the article points out that this was a result of actually doing work on the building, the point remains, as FM had to stop work due to lacking parts.

This lack of funding does not only result in fewer hard copy and electronic collections, but the loss of our current collections due to faulty ceilings. Residence halls aren't the only buildings on campus that need renovations. Just ask a BSOS major.

Matt Graves offers some reactions to the staff ed. I, too, must confess ignorance at the way our libraries are funded in their totality. If it's anything like other non-self-support departments on campus (some self-supports include DRL, DDS, DRF), then funding comes from a multitude of places - auxiliary student fees, tuition, redirected cost containment funds, private funders, budgeted and dedicated state funding, etcetera. I have to disagree with Graves on a key point, though.

His idea that department/college-specific journals should be paid for only by those colleges is another great ideology versus practice problem. It sounds good, right, to let (force) only the people who use the service to purchase it? It is good, I will concede, in an absolute world. But in a University setting, we subsidize one another for the good of the whole. It's a bummer, but it's a reality: it costs way more to produce a wind tunnel than a long-winded history professor, and I'm getting no discounts spending my time in Key instead.

(Cost containment is, of course, a different issue.)

Ultimately, both the DBK and Graves are right, if you make the connection: we need more money. Frankly, students are paying more than they can currently afford for college, and nationally I worry we're rapidly approaching a point that will make the "opportunity cost/it'll be worth it after you graduate" argument not quite as persuasive, especially to lower-income students.

My recommendation would be to spend a lot of time and effort lobbying in Annapolis for more money, cliche as it sounds. Add this library incident to the list of things about which you'll testify.

Update: See Tim Hackman's addendum to the DBK's editorial

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Is the Friendly Ticket Program really Student Friendly?

A few weeks ago, the Diamondback published an article regarding the DOTS Friendly Ticket program. Apparently, the initiative can no longer be sustained by other DOTS fees, and they are now looking to increase student transportation fees to cover this new service.

Most of the people receiving these "friendly tickets" are visitors, not Maryland students. It doesn't seem to make sense that a program which really does not benefit students would be funded BY student fees.

A comment on the Diamondback website suggests more visitor parking, an issue that has continually come up over the years. They also suggest visitor day passes. As long as there was a way of regulating who was able to use them and where, this could be another great solution.

Luckily the ticket appeals process is fairly simple, I don't think any alumni or other visitors would feel especially inconvenienced in having to spend 10 minutes writing a letter and putting it in the mail.

While in theory, it is a nice idea to allow visitors one "freebie," since it is no news to any of us that it is difficult to find parking on this campus, DOTS should look to other options to fund this program if they plan on continuing it.

Student fees should pay for student services, not for a program that does NOT directly benefit them.

Alex Beuchler

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Good news out of Student Affairs. Students are recycling at UMD more than ever.


More renovations in the works. I also hear that Shoemaker is looking for renovations in 2009-2010. And the residence halls?

Friday, April 11, 2008

System, Please Hear Us

Oh, sweet farce. Gina Sagar says what many are thinking.

President Mote and University administration have clearly done a remarkable job at improving the quality of education here in the last decade and change, or so (no. 54 in 2008, according to US News). They should be applauded.

And the Fridge has taken our boys to a bunch of bowls this century and has been rewarded with a few few-million-dollar renovations to Byrd. The Athletics Department is quick to point out that the renovation will pay for itself, however. That does provide some comfort.

But while System was approving the loan for non-essential athletics improvements, Denton's pipes were a ticking time bomb. And maybe President Mote didn't know, but with the fantastic academic improvements he was attracting the nation's most promising students to a place that would likely not satisfy their desire for a high quality of life.

Resident students are tired of hearing about the housing crisis and about all the as-yet unfulfilled promises. When will System feel the urgency with which we feel this crisis? There is not enough housing here and lots of the housing we've got is leaking and hot and cold and crowded.

We, the students, do not only urge approval of the projects to come before System in the coming months and years... but we ask, with hope and with humility, to have our voice heard and our needs met, to have our university improved with new beds and renovation of the buildings around those already in existence.

System approves new housing projects based on a principle of taking turns, yielding priority in building new housing in places like Towson (click on West Village Housing Construction - Updates), while the demand in College Park outstrips that of almost anywhere. This is the wrong way to operate. In practice, goods should be delivered where the demand is highest. We need housing here in College Park!

Update: I sent a link to this post specifically and one to the blog in general to System today at 12:26PM.

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Campus v. Preinkert

Purple Line will cost $3 million more on the Preinkert alignment than on the Campus Drive alignment. This is not a significant amount of money with respect to this project. It's time that cost ceases to be a primary topic in this Campus/Preinkert debate and for the public discourse to shift to other de/merits of each alignment.

Keep an eye on the papers for a note on a joint letter regarding the Purple Line from GSG President Laura Moore, SGA President Andrew Friedson, and RHA President Sumner Handy to President Mote and University administration.

As noted in the article, MTA will present next to the University Senate on May 8.

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Shuttle-UM to Open to CP Residents

See the DBK story here. Article's pretty good, but mischaracterizes RHA's involvement a little bit.
The bill had generated controversy among student groups for years. The Residence Halls Association in particular had spoken out strongly against making Shuttle-UM public, saying it would hurt campus safety. But months after a compromise with student groups and university administrators, RHA President Sumner Handy says the RHA has changed its position.
Accurate version: in 2005-2006, RHA President Kareem Branch led the dialogue between RHA members and university administrators, including DOTS Director David Allen. By the end of 2006, RHA had reached a consensus approval of the measure, noting that safety was not a sound concern and recommending that costs to students should be defrayed if at all possible. The RHA has not changed its position since then. Everything else is correct, though:
"We came to the practical conclusion that safety was not being compromised by opening it to the public," said Handy. "The fact of the matter is that they can already get on campus by walking on foot and taking the shuttle bus on weekends [when drivers don't check IDs.]"

Handy said the bill is good for students "as long as money comes into DOTS to defray student costs."
But it appears that costs won't be defrayed all that much. As all 35,000 students (grads and undergrads) pay a transportation fee, and the money coming into DOTS is projected to be about $5000 (as that's the minimum and city resident ridership is expected to stay low), we're looking at a one-seventh of one dollar decrease in student fees, or about 14 cents. I suppose it's better than nothing, but you can't even buy a carrot in the Co-Op for that much.

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President

RHA Elections Coverage

Diamondback covers RHA speeches and platforms today. Quick take: similar candidates with different experiences and variable leadership styles, and both qualified. Overall, pretty accurate. It was nice to see a DBK reporter stay for the whole meeting and then 30 minutes afterward to thoroughly interview the candidates and make sure he's got it all right. Kudos to staff writer Derby Cox.

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President

A 2008 Theme: Senators Vie for Presidency

SGA Presidential Candidate Danny Leydorf, a current RHA Senator and Transportation Advisory Committee Chair, gets a profile in the DBK.

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Better Solution

This is an interesting take from an experienced and decorated RA, Ben Johnson. Johnson asserts that freshmen should get "back on north campus" for their own safety.

But I am still skeptical of the assertion that freshmen in traditional residence halls drink less (or urinate themselves less, or are less belligerent, etcetera) than those in apartments or suites. I'd like to see the incident report figures and get some anecdotal surveys. It seems to me a non-sequitur, that residents' alcohol-related behaviors are based on where they live. I don't believe that ghettoizing freshmen will reduce their alcohol consumption or increase their level of responsibility.

I'm inclined to believe that a good place to start on our university's alcohol problem (as many administrators insist we have) is efforts to create stronger feelings of community, connectedness, and dedication to the university - a culture that encourages students to get out of their rooms and to a place other than the party or the bar. I'd like to see our great events better-advertised, and Art Attack to remain free and truly connected to students. This is perhaps more challenging than it sounds, and will take more than a Midnight Breakfast or an Open Mic Night. A diverse student-administrator joint task force charged with better understanding UMD's diverse student body and what turns it on could go a long way.

Update: Last Friday night/Saturday morning (April 4/5), suspects (students?) pushed a full-size refrigerator out of an Easton Hall lounge window, landing immediately in front of the doors to the building. Suspects have not yet been identified, but face up to three years in prison for attempted manslaughter and vandalism, among other crimes, according to RHA Senator Andrew Steinberg. This was in a high rise, not Leonardtown.

Posted By: Sumner Handy, President

"Lemme Upgrade Ya" - Beyonce, on Denton Hall Toilets

One has to wonder, would this be happening if the University didn't have to continually delay residence hall renovations?
"I blacked out and woke up in f---in' Finding Nemo," said one resident who did not provide his name.

Posted By: Sumner Handy, President

Friday, April 4, 2008

Housing @ UMD Lacks System-Level Priority Status

This is a real bummer. System has nixed university efforts to get another PPP (in addition to the 370-some bed building already approved) on South Campus, near Commons.

Pat Mielke, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, is referenced as having been told by "officials" - presumably people at System and members of the Board of Regents (who are a segment of System, but have a unique role in the budget process - final approval) - that they want to see progress in the private sector before they approve any more debt for PPPs or state buildings. Really? Since when is it the University's job to go to Otis Warren and other local developers and say, "Listen, we really need you to build that add-on to University View so that we can get more housing on campus"?

Vice President for Administrative Affairs Doug Duncan is quoted as saying
"In the meantime, this will help some. I think we reached a conclusion that's going to get housing built on campus fairly quickly."
That sounds good, but what? The "this" he's talking about in the first sentence appears to be the 370-bed PPP. Yes, that will help some. But if that building were available today for students to live in next year, it still wouldn't cover the amount of juniors DRL and the University has had to turn away this year due to the housing crunch (crisis, debacle, and whatever other uber-negatively-connotated word for "problem" you can imagine). "Help" is pretty relative.

And what about this "fairly quickly"? In all the conversations I've had with administrators, not one person has expressed this kind of optimism to me. Everyone shrugs their shoulders, seemingly saying something like, "Your guess is as good as mine." Does Duncan know something we don't, or is he thinking wishfully?

Staff writer Carrie Wells writes further:
In the meantime, the university decided it will take $35 million from East Campus developer Foulger-Pratt Argo, originally earmarked for the North Campus dorm, and use it to fund more housing projects elsewhere on the campus. Administrators said they had not decided where the money would go, but acknowledged the possibility of using it to pay for the South Campus dorm. With the North Campus dorm expected to cost around $80 million, that money would not be enough to fully fund the project.
This sounds off to me, taking money earmarked for an $80 million project that could potentially house the entire current population of Leonardtown and putting it toward other projects. It feels like we're taking the sandbags from the broken levy to stop up the flooding of a single building or one part of town. It sounds good, I guess, if that building is really important, but what about the levy and all the problems the rest of the flooding will cause? The other buildings? There have to be more details here. Aren't there legal questions here, too, with respect to Foulger-Pratt Argo and what the money is to be used for?

The more important question here is, what happens next? Just forget about that $80 million project? The already-approved 370-bed PPP will cost about $36 million, so that $35 million we're redirecting would presumably add a comparable amount of beds. Every little bit counts, but isn't there efficiency in economies of scale? University administrators fought extremely hard to get that $36 million; just imagine the fight it will take to get System/BOR to replenish all $80 million, if that's the road they have to take.

It's really too bad when the AVPSA feels something that makes her say "I'll take what [housing] I can get." The RHA Senate voted last week to get involved with a campus-wide and inter-organization pro-housing campaign that would include writing emails to the BOR. I'm optimistic that they'll hear us, but I'll measure how seriously they're taking us by the results I see.

Bureaucracy works slow, and so also does construction. Even if we get something approved this year, who knows when it will get built? The Washington Quad was supposed to be done in time for residents to enjoy it throughout Spring 2008. We're now looking at an early-mid summer completion date. We need housing to become a system-wide priority. So far, only students and university-level administrators are feeling the urgency.

I encourage all of you to take part in the forthcoming advocacy efforts. Details to come.

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The RHA Exemption: Ideology vs. Practical Solution

This letter to the editor in today's Diamondback is an excellent response to the exemption policy adopted by the Department of Resident Life and the RHA. Julia Burke makes two important points about this policy. One, that RHA members that receive an exemption are not facing the same major problem (that is, the housing crisis) that the students whom they represent are facing, and are, by virtue of this fact, significantly disconnected from their constituencies. And two, that juniors and seniors serving in the RHA do not actually represent resident students because the vast majority of resident students are freshmen and sophomores. Burke states that she's "disenchanted" with the RHA's apparent disavowing of "the democratic principles that elected them in the first place."

The concern with the democratic principles and the accuracy of representation are the absolute best ideological arguments that could be made, in my estimation. (Indeed, they're exactly the ones I would make, if I were to argue against the policy.) But the problem is ideology versus practice. The thing about theory is that in theory, it always works in practice. But this whole situation is (as most real-world ones are) imperfect and not ideal. So, we are forced to make concessions.

The best leaders are ones that have experience (among other qualities). The main thrust behind this policy is to have better leadership and to more effectively advocate on behalf of students. Older students, the ones not catered to under the current housing commitment groups policy, are both left off campus and the most qualified for student leadership positions. The exemption is actually created to improve (or maintain the quality of) advocacy for students, not worsen.

And hey, aren't we just one resident student population? On-campus resident seniors that represent freshmen and sophomores are no less able to adequately represent the latter group simply because they're not the same year. Resident student leaders that live on campus represent students that live on campus, not others of their class standing.

Further, Burke asserts that RHA members, students that have this great voice in the making of policy, according to many decision makers, are making decisions without adequately considering the viewpoints of students, and indeed are making the wrong decisions because they don't have to worry about these things personally. In theory, this is possible. But in practice, it's not happening. Most of the students with whom I work in the RHA Senate and around the policy sphere do their jobs well: they talk to students and consider the issues from all angles. The vast majority do not consider only themselves when making arguments and considering solutions. (There are always a few bad apples, in every organization.) Moreover, the students who voted on the housing policy questions last semester included RHA Senators and RHA Executive Board members. Only 8 students (the EB) of a 48-voting member body would be eligible for an exemption - hardly a figure large enough to force founded worries of corruption.

The issue we're talking about here is one of theory/ideology versus practice. Some things that sound really good on paper just don't work in practice. For instance, "small government and low taxes" - personally, I love these ideas, as something of a libertarian, but you can't make government based solely on these principles. Sometimes, the government needs to step in to make a change. Most of the time, this requires resources. And sometimes, that means more taxes. The question we should be dealing with is not, "Does this decision [whatever we're talking about, from Medicare* to a housing exemption] fall in line with our ideological guidelines?", but instead "Does this decision fall in line with our practical goals [of providing adequate health care to Americans* or providing the highest quality student leadership to resident students]?"

With that, I would that we see this policy in that light. While the decision that was made, to an arguably greater or lesser degree, defies purely democratic principles, it will yield results that are quite in line with the practical goals we have: high quality, experienced student leadership.

*I am making absolutely no comment about Medicare. I am not qualified to do so.

Posted By: Sumner Handy, President

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Meal Point Donation Drive


OnThursday, March 6, 2008, the University of Maryland Residence Hall Association (RHA), the Student Government Association (SGA), and the Department of Dining Services teamed up for a great cause. After several tornadoes devastated the campus of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, student leaders united for a cause. Students with meal plans were able to donate one meal-point. Sumner Handy, President of the RHA commented: "It was a pleasure to work with SGA President Andrew Friedson on this endeavor, and even more satisfying to take the opportunity we had to help others in need."

Members of the RHA and SGA staffed the drive at the North Campus Diner and the South Campus Dining Hall, respectfully. On just one day their efforts managed to raise nearly $1,300.

If you’d like more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview with Seth Salver, please contact him at or visit our website at

Friday, March 28, 2008

Buried the Lead?

...all the way out of the paper?

Regarding this article, relative to the rest of the week's events, I am a bit disappointed. I spoke with author Carrie Wells last night and I asked her if she was writing a story on only the exemption policy, and she said yes, defending it by saying that since it was the first time it would be implemented, it's pretty important.

I don't disagree with her. I think the public should know. It's a clear policy, but it's a potentially controversial policy.

The real question is why Diamondback thought this was the story that should come out of Tuesday's RHA Senate meeting: a 5-minute explanation of a policy designed to provide on-campus students with the best leadership and to foster growth of that student leadership is the one and only RHA headline during a week where the Senate voted to launch a new campaign for more on-campus housing, voted to invite the residents of Courtyards Community to affiliate with the RHA, and heard nominations for President and Vice President of the RHA, to serve 2008-2009.

It's not that I think the exemption policy is not newsworthy; it's that I don't think it was more important than other items, and thus should not have been printed with priority.

Update: See the DBK's staff editorial here.

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Courtyards Community Invitation

Last night, the RHA Senate passed a resolution that supports inviting the Courtyards Community to officially affiliate with the Residence Hall Association. If accepted, this will create a Courtyards Area Council that will include a President and one RHA Senator (voting member in the RHA Senate) per 250 residents, plus whatever positions the Council believes necessary and proper for the functioning of the council.

The resolution stipulates that the invitation be accepted by the residents of Courtyards via referendum, not by any supposedly representative body, any Courtyards staffer, or other entity. We are currently looking into the possibility of hosting this referendum within Testudo or via the Department of Resident Life's capabilities.

We hope that CTY (of which I am a resident) will accept our invitation. We believe that it will be mutually beneficial - RHA will benefit from a more diverse group of students at the table, and CTY will benefit from the RHA's already-constructed advocacy conduits.

Posted by: Sumner Handy

More Community, with Creativity

SGA Legislator Josh Swanner first brought up the idea of renaming South Campus Commons buildings with names of Muppet or Sesame Street characters. As of right now, a meeting with Department of Resident Life Associate Director for South Campus Cindy Felice and Director of Residential Facilities Jon Dooley yielded a denial of the proposal and a recommendation that Swanner compile a list of Maryland's most populous, non-governmental cities, by county, and include with it a list of state symbols. Swanner plans to meet with Felice and Dooley again soon to present this list.

Thank goodness for a little creativity. Too bad it's been diluted. Swanner is exactly right: numbered buildings are boring. While I'm not particularly partial to naming Commons 1 after Cookie Monster, I certainly would prefer that to calling it "The Aberdeen Building." But this state symbol idea has some merit. Oriole (state bird) Place? Skipjack (state boat) Hall? Or even "The Joust" (state sport)? Everyone would want to live there. I think these ideas get at what Swanner is talking about - add a little sense of community, a little fun, and the symbols are relevant to Maryland.

Concerns about whether or not new names will stick are understandable, but I think unfounded. Students are already calling our (the class of 2009, and maybe 2010, and older) beloved CRC by its new, official name, the ERC (Eppley Recreation Center).

Again, Swanner's brought up a cool community-building-centered conversation, but I think there's a more obvious place to start: South Campus Dining Hall. That's about as bland as you can get, as bad as or worse than naming Commons buildings with numbers. I think we should name SCDH after Pat Higgins, former Dining Services Director, who served UMD Dining for nearly half a century.

A sense of community is important to the thriving of any community, but this sense is especially important at a large, diverse university. Renaming Commons won't solve all our problems, but it can't hurt. Let's do this, and do it a little differently.

Posted by: Sumner Handy

Monday, March 24, 2008


Welcome to the new and official blog of the University of Maryland Residence Hall Association! We are happy that you've found us and taken the time to visit.

It is the belief of the current RHA Executive Board that it is always important to set out the goals of any new endeavor, to explain the principle by which decisions are made and opinions held. In light of this view, I will begin by setting forth the goals of this new blog.

First, this blog will become a portal through which resident students can peer into the current activities, thoughts, feelings, opinions, and otherwise of current RHA members. That is, a goal of this blog is to promote transparency.

Second, this blog will serve to relay official news from the RHA. While our website undergoes renovation and a transfer of servers, it is important that the RHA maintains a way to communicate important news items with its constituents.

Third, it is the opinion of the current RHA Executive Board that "student leader" has become, to a greater or lesser degree, a nebulous term and that students that are supposedly our peers can too often feel more like unreachable administrators than students who act directly on our behalf. Thus, a goal of this blog is to help to shrink, and hopefully eliminate, this sense of distance, lack of definition, and potential mistrust. In that vein, I refer you to the disclaimer found on this blog, and repeat a sentiment found there: the postings on this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions of the RHA as a whole organization, but only those opinions of the poster, unless otherwise stated. Official RHA releases will be noted as such. Blogs have many unique benefits. One of the best, in our opinion, is its property of a mixture of a journal/diary and official correspondence. Thus, connectedness and commentary are goals of this blog.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we hope that this blog will continually contribute to and further conversations being had on campus. Hopefully the comments found on this blog will help to illuminate important perspectives and points and serve to improve life and culture here at the University of Maryland.

As for goals, those are the major ones. Others will certainly be filled along the way.

We thank you very much for visiting our new blog.

Posted by: Sumner Handy, President