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 www.marylandrha.com and www.marylandrha.blogspot.com. 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

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