Top moments from the Residence Halls Association presidential debate

Voting begins March 2 at 10:00 a.m. and goes until March 4 at 10:00 a.m. Results will be announced March 4 in Traditions Plaza.

Two slates outlined their plans for changes to the Residence Halls Association at RHA’s presidential debate at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 in Bengal Lair.

The debate proceeded as scheduled, even after RHA experienced some complications with the election process. After one presidential candidate, Kyle Roberts, dropped out of the race and left only one slate in the running, RHA congress passed legislation to re-open the ballot. This allowed for Emily Aiken, formerly running as vice president under Roberts, to run as a single-person presidential slate.

Aiken is running against presidential candidate Matt Bourke and vice presidential candidate Martha Pangborn.

The candidates varied in their levels of experience with RHA as well as other leadership roles on campus. They both support Concerned Student 1950 and plan to focus on sustainability within the residence halls.

The two-hour debate covered topics from LGBTQ inclusion in the halls to smoking regulations on campus and more.

Here are five notable moments:

Increased mental health awareness around campus

Both slates agreed that mental health should be a larger concern in RHA. Both presidential candidates said that there should be more information on services for students provided on the back of every resident’s room door.

Mental health crisis hotlines should be placed on the back of every door in addition to the information currently provided about emergency situations within the residence halls, Aiken said. Bourke, in rebuttal, said that the phone number for every service provided for by student fees should be included.

Pangborn added that RHA should promote the Counseling Center as well as other social justice organizations on campus, such as the Multicultural Center.

Different stances on DPE training and inclusivity

Events on campus such as the Concerned Student 1950 protests lead to the discussion of how each slate plans to make residence halls more inclusive.

The Bourke/Pangborn slate said that all RHA representatives need to receive Diversity Peer Educators training. Pangborn added that Safe Space training is necessary, as well.

Aiken said that she disagreed, and that providing more information about where to report instances of discrimination as well as information on inclusivity issues on campus is more important. Training, Aiken said, is not necessary.

When asked to define “safe space” by moderator and RHA Chief Justice Garrett Wilt, both slates said it was a place where students feel comfortable to discuss diversity and discrimination issues openly.

Different levels of experience with leadership on campus

Both slates have different levels of experience within RHA and with other organizations on campus.

During the fall semester, Aiken moved from her position as RHA programming chairwoman to programming coordinator, placing her on the executive board of RHA. Aiken said that her passion for the organization is what inspired her to make the move to the executive cabinet.

Pangborn has experience as RHA programming vice chairwoman, while Bourke has experience as Hatch Hall president as well as experience in the Missouri Students Association as a senator in the Student Affairs Committee and attending Operations Committee meetings.

During the debate, Bourke was asked about criticism he may have received from being involved with the Gomez/Hanner MSA presidential campaign. Bourke was appointed deputy chief of staff for Gomez/Hanner, but he said he had no knowledge of the controversial GroupMe messages that eventually led to the president and vice president-elects resignations.

“I still consider them good friends, but I think it’s very clear they played with fire, and they got burned,” Bourke said.

Bourke added that he plans to be more transparent in his campaign.

Smoking regulations on campus

MSA and RHA supported a bill that would increase no-smoking signage on campus during joint session in the fall semester. An early draft of the RHA bill included a potential fee for people caught smoking on campus.

Aiken said she supports the fee, and said that in an effort to increase sustainability she will attempt to implement a $100 to $300 fee for people caught smoking on campus. The price is high, but that is the risk of smoking on campus, Aiken said.

Aiken said she also hopes to work with MU Police Department and other “higher-ups” to see what services can be provided to decrease smoking on campus.

Issues with the RHA election process

Recently, RHA Congress passed a bill that allowed for new slates to enter the race after one candidate dropped out, leaving only the Bourke/Pangborn slate in the running against a vote of no confidence. Bourke took issue with the amendment during the debate.

“The amendment-changing completely overrides the judicial process,” Bourke said, referring to the fact that previously, all election proceedings ran through the judicial branch of RHA.

He added that representatives voting on the amendment were potentially biased, which compromised the process.

Bourke said that he believed the most recent amendment should be re-evaluated and that proceedings should be left in the hands of the judicial branch.

Voting begins 10 a.m. March 2 and goes until 10 a.m. March 4. Results will be announced March 4 in Traditions Plaza.

Edited by Waverly Colville |

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