The Maneater

RHA passes legislation to raise social fee

Congressman Garren Wegener, the bill’s author, said the $5 increase was necessary to expand RHA’s relevance on campus.

Students living in the residence halls could see an increase of $5 to their semesterly social fees if the Board of Curators and Department of Residential Life approves a bill passed April 25. The new fee would be $20 and would take effect fall 2017.

The additional money will go into a new fund to provide financial assistance to other campus organizations. The potential increase would be the second in 22 years.

The new fund would be used for projects shared between RHA and other campus organizations. Garren Wegener, the bill’s author, said he came up with the idea after meeting with members of Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education to discuss increasing the availability of contraceptives in residence halls.

SHAPE has previously been funded by the Student Health Center, but its status is now under review due to cuts to the overall MU budget. When Wegener learned how expensive the program was to run, Wegener said he saw a need to raise the social fee to create a fund that targets similar partnerships.

The co-author of the social fee bill, Sterling Waldman, wants the fund to provide further assistance for SHAPE’s “Get Yourself Tested” events and allow contraceptives to be refilled in the residence halls more frequently.

RHA already offers financial support to campus organizations such as SHAPE and STRIPES, an auxiliary of the Missouri Students Association. RHA has also recently started funding the Stressbusters program that was scheduled to be cut earlier this year because of the enrollment drop, according to the Columbia Missourian.

Wegener said RHA has ideas about which campus groups to begin partnerships with, including expanding hours at Ellis Library and working with STRIPES to provide additional rides to residence halls. He also said RHA may create an auxiliary to manage and rent out equipment, such as popcorn machines or sound systems, to the residence halls.

RHA Speaker Emily Aiken said that the social fee legislation was controversial because of the organization’s high turnover rate in membership. Since most students move out of the residence halls after their freshman year, Aiken said it is rare that members of Congress return for a second term.

“People were kind of iffy on (passing the bill) because they’re not making the decision for themselves, they’re making it for (the) future Congress,” Aiken said. “Especially since budgets are being cut for next year, it was a touchy subject.”

Although the bill was debated for two weeks, it passed through Congress unanimously with one abstention. While it originally advocated for a $2.50 increase, Wegener eventually raised the number to $5 based on input from Congress to ensure that RHA has enough funding for the years to come.

“(RHA is) getting more involved on campus,” he said. “We’re seeing what the needs are, and we’re hearing from our residents. We can’t do it all. We need to work with these departments that have more knowledge than us.”

The proposal to raise the social fee will go before the Department of Residential Life in November before being presented to the Board of Curators in 2017. Before this happens, students living in the residence halls will have the chance to amend or reject the increased social fee if they wish. The process by which students would provide input is currently unclear.

“RHA has been slowly losing relevance, and I think bringing [that] back and getting students involved earlier is really how we’re going to improve campus as a whole,” Wegener said.

Edited by Emily Gallion | egallion@themaneater.com

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