The challenge of the Residence Halls Association is often the very demographics of the organization and the students it serves. Increasingly, with enrollment over-capacity and more attractive options luring upperclassmen off campus, MU's residence halls have become almost completely dominated by freshmen who will only live on campus for a single year. The problem for RHA has been to adequately serve and help these freshmen adjust to college, while retaining bright, interested upperclassmen to run the organization and ensure each year's incoming freshmen have the best Mizzou experience possible.
To do so requires experience and familiarity — with RHA itself, but also with other campus organizations and leaders — and with this in mind, we feel the presidential slate of James Jordan and Tom Bourneuf is the best choice to lead RHA for 2013-14.
Jordan, an RHA veteran who was instrumental in the creation of the Bike Share program, and Bourneuf, who has significant experience with Missouri Students Association and the Board of Elections Commissioners, have been involved and hardworking on campus throughout their years at MU. Both of them understand RHA’s role, capacities, limitations and impact. They have been around for a while, they know how to get work done and they have an efficient and focused plan to do so — a plan that we feel would benefit not just residents, but the MU community as a whole.
Their platform emphasizes resident involvement, and Jordan and Bourneuf recognize that to achieve this, they will have to be attentive and create events and programs for all residents. Jordan aims to expand Bike Share to each residence hall and secure long-term funding for the program, a plan we readily applaud, and the duo would like to create international-student panels so other students can learn about their home cultures and experiences.
All of campus could be positively benefited from the sustainability side of Jordan and Bourneuf’s platform. Jordan is already working with a nonprofit charitable organization to bring more solar panels to campus, particularly in high-visibility areas. They envision a second wind turbine being placed closer to the football stadium, which would be a great addition to the MU landscape that is now being shown on national television nearly every football weekend. If they could pull it off, their ambitious plan for a more sustainable — and sustainable-looking — campus would be a step in the right direction.
Where we do have an issue is Jordan and Bourneuf’s view that more upperclassmen should stay in the residence halls as community leaders. It’s a nice thought, but the logistics of our overcrowded campus prohibit that. As many freshmen as possible should live on campus — they need the close community to help them transition into “independent” living and get adjusted to college coursework. If Residential Life made more room for upperclassmen to live in the residence halls, first-year retention would likely decline, the dropout rate would likely increase and the level of campus involvement for freshmen would certainly be impacted.
We urge Jordan and Bourneuf, too, to reach out more to students, especially those living on campus. Using their resourceful connections to MU leaders will only get them so far as RHA president and vice president. Working with Residential Life director Frankie Minor is important, but so is working with freshmen and incoming residents to make sure they’re on top of what residents want and need.
We also commend the other two slates for their passion and interest in bettering the lives of campus residents. Jackson Farley and Shannon Dawson seem very interested in updating RHA and making it more visible and connected, but they lack Jordan and Bourneuf’s level of experience and potential to carry out such a strategy. Their idea of connecting each hall president to RHA, though, is a smart one.
Anurag Chandran and Brooke Burge share a vibrant passion for the organization and its mission, but their platform seems quite unrealistic to us. They have a “laundry list” of goals, many of which are great individually, but are unattainable as a whole and overestimate the resources, funds and capacities RHA possesses.
Each of the six candidates are a great asset to RHA and to their university, and we strongly encourage them to continue working for the organization and being involved on campus. We are impressed by how each has been willing to question what RHA is and isn’t doing for students — and more importantly, what it can do for them. However, only James Jordan and Tom Bourneuf have the experience, knowledge, connections and focus to intelligently advance the organization forward. We unequivocally endorse them for the RHA presidency.
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