The Residence Halls Association Congress will meet Monday to debate and vote on a proposed amendment to the RHA bylaws.
According to the text of Amendment 002, its purpose is to organize the hall fines from absences of Congress and committee meetings from adding to the scholarship fund and to alternatively place the money into the Legislative (Operations) Committee allocating fund to be dispersed to residents who are using them.
The Operations Committee, which must approve legislation before RHA Congress can review it, unanimously approved the amendment. Operations Committee Chairman Lane Adams authored the amendment.
Adams said in an email the purpose of the amendment is to positively affect more residents, while still punishing halls that do not effectively represent their residents.
“RHA already sets money aside for scholarships, and it seems like additional money generated should be made available to students as is intended and used to fund the requests they submit,” Adams said. “The goal of RHA is to help residents and, by effectively helping as many residents as possible, the goal of RHA is better reflected in this amendment than in the support of the scholarship fund.”
However, there is debate among RHA’s executive leadership about the effects and consequences the amendment could have.
Although the bill seeks to re-appropriate fine revenue from the scholarship fund, RHA president Zack Folk said he believes, even if the amendment is passed, RHA will still be required to offer and fund the same number of scholarships because it is mandated in its constitution.
RHA Financial Coordinator Matt Kalish expressed concern about the organization’s ability to continue funding scholarships if the bill is passed.
“I don’t know if it will be fiscally sustainable to continue to offer scholarships if we don’t have fines coming in to fund them,” Kalish said. “It will definitely create some logistical problems because in a few years if there's a new financial coordinator, he might not want to fund scholarships anymore because they won't have the fine money coming in."
Last year, RHA offered five $1,000 scholarships to students who planned to live in the halls the next year, as it has traditionally done. According to the most recent copy of the organization’s bylaws available on the RHA website, there is no stipulation about the number or value of the scholarships the organization must provide.
Kalish also expressed concerns that the amendment will hinder RHA’s ability to enforce its attendance policy, to the detriment of those living in the halls.
“To encourage RHA hall representatives to attend meetings we assess fines to those halls whose representatives miss a meeting,” Kalish said. “Under the current system, those funds are used to finance scholarships, meaning that residents of the halls who paid fines have a chance to get those funds back by applying for a scholarship. However, if this amendment passes, fined halls will be able to request those funds back, making the attendance policy entirely null and void. This is not in the best interest of RHA.”
Adams voiced disagreement with this assertion, citing the oversight function performed by the RHA Operations committee, which oversees such requests.
“The Operations committee sees all funding requests and all requests must be sent in writing that explicitly explains what the funding request is asking money for,” Adams said in an email. “The Operations Committee, in my opinion, would surely see through the guise of a hall simply trying to return their fines money and promptly reject such a request.”
Folk also emphasized that the bill needs to be more thoroughly discussed before any decision can be made and final conclusions drawn.
“While I am agnostic about the content of the bill, I am frustrated that there is frustration and confusion because of how fast this has been approached,” Folk said. “This is something that definitely needs to be discussed more before conclusions can be come to and a decision made. I view this bill as one that definitely needs to be fine-tuned and the intent clarified but I think this is something that will happen before it is presented at Congress on Monday.”