The Residence Halls Association Operations Committee voted on and approved two bills Monday evening.
The bills will create guidelines for the funding of the five $1,000 scholarships the organization has traditionally offered and re-appropriate the funds received from hall fines so that they can be put toward student requests made to RHA.
Bill 002 requires “the RHA financial coordinator to allocate $2,500 from the RHA Budget at the beginning of the Fall semester and another $2,500 at the beginning of the Spring semester to be used as funding for the RHA Scholarship Fund to add up to a yearly total of $5000,” according to the text of the bill. The mandate is in order to “create a concrete set of guidelines for financing the Scholarship Fund and ensure that Finance Coordinators from now on can guarantee the funding of RHA Scholarship Fund.”
Bill 003 would “organize the hall fines (raised) from absences of Congress and committee meetings from adding to the scholarship fund and alternatively placing those monies into the Legislative/Operations Committee distributive fund to be dispersed to residents who are using them.”
These funds, currently allocated for scholarships, have not been used to fund scholarships. Instead, RHA has funded the scholarships with money gained from hall social fees, meaning that revenue from hall fines has gone unused during the year they were raised, leading to their ultimate “roll over” into the next year’s general fund in the RHA budget.
Bill 003 states that these monies would be put to better use if they “were allocated elsewhere into the Legislative Distributive Fund” where they would “help to continue the work of the Operations Committee to distribute monies to organizations that plan events for residents and benefit all students instead of just those involved in RHA.”
Now that the Operations Committee has approved the bill, the RHA Congress will meet April 1 to vote on the bill, the latest step in a process that has seen the proposal of two previous versions of the legislation now on the table.
After the original bill was passed by the committee, the bill’s author, RHA Operations Committee Chairman Lane Adams, decided to write two bills to separately address the issues of RHA scholarships and hall fine fee allocation.
“The new bills are an extension of what we have been trying to do all along in terms of placing the fines into the legislative distribution fund,” Adams said. “I had to scrap the first versions in order to figure out a feasible plan for doing so and to make sure the wording was correct.”
While several versions of the bill have been proposed, the intent has remained the same, with changes made to the wording and structuring of the bills, Adams said.
“I have changed the bills in order to clarify what they will do,” he said. “I was originally just trying to pass one bill, but I realized it would better to write two bills to address each aspect of what I am trying to do.”
Anurag Chandran, co-sponsor of the bills, RHA President Zack Folk and Speaker of Congress Lydia Harveng helped Adams revise the bill, he said.
“I decided to sponsor this bill because it clearly shows a better utilization of the funds,” Chandran said. “Right now the way we fund scholarships is uncertain and this bill will organize that and make our scholarship program more sustainable.”
Adams is hopeful that the bill will be passed when RHA Congress votes on it next week.
“I think a lot of Operations is behind it and while we still don’t really have support of (RHA Financial Coordinator) Matt Kalish, other executive board members have told me they approve it,” Adams said. “It allows for clarity and I think people will support that.”
In response to questions about his support of the bill, Kalish expressed appreciation for the discussion of the bill that has taken place and the changes that have been made.
“We had a great discussion about the bill in last week's committee meeting and I am encouraged by the progress made by the committee to craft a better bill,” Kalish said. “Lane and his fellow committee members have done a great job listening to the feedback of those present in Operations last week and incorporating that into the revised legislation. I think that this bill has come a long way in the last week.”