Two slates running for RHA president
Both slates want to create a new position to connect RHA with other diversity organizations on campus.
Feb. 24, 2015
Two slates are running in the 2015 Residence Halls Association presidential election. Freshmen Billy Donley and Rachel Thomas are challenging sitting RHA President Steven Chaffin, who is aiming for a second term with running mate and former Maneater columnist Nina Ruhe.
Incumbent Steven Chaffin and running mate Nina Ruhe said their differences in perspectives and views serve as balancing points in their partnership.
“This is an opportunity to become a bigger part of this organization and to help other students,” said Ruhe, a freshman. “Ultimately, our styles are very compatible, and I know that I can count on him, because I know that he is going to get things done.”
Their ideas are diverse in scope and topic, ranging from an expanded recycling initiative to strengthening the language partners program to better benefit international students.
The issue of a seemingly inconsistent food pricing mechanism is especially important to Ruhe, she said.
“I’d like to think of it as my little baby because I’m so passionate about it now," Ruhe said. "I don’t care how long I have to push, I want to get that changed."
Other ideas for their tenure in office are laid out in the campaign’s platform. The four core pillars of their platform are: Invest, Engage, Advocate and Refine.
“Nina (Ruhe) has this fresh perspective and was able to bring me back to earth on issues, and I was able to refine her ideas so that we could move forward with them,” said Chaffin, a sophomore.
The first pillar is centered on investing in students along with their academic and professional development.
The second pillar, Engage, is “about solving some of the student issues that persist, and these are really social justice and inclusivity-based,” Chaffin said.
This includes their plan to create a student issues coordinator, who would be a liaison between RHA and various campus diversity organizations.
Chaffin and Ruhe said they believe the creation of such a position would help foster open discussions and forums about serious and relevant issues the diverse student population faces.
Their third pillar, Advocate, focuses on issues such as sustainability and food pricing.
Internal structural issues of RHA, such as their goal to merge some of the responsibilities of the financial coordinator with the role of the vice president, are organized under their last pillar, Refine.
Chaffin said his and Ruhe’s experience in RHA is what makes them the best fit for the positions.
“I have a year of experience where I have forged relationships with the people who we need to make these changes real,” Chaffin said. “We bring an experienced vision.”
Their vision emphasizes the importance of inclusivity and a sense of belonging, he said.
“I want us to get to the point where no matter who you are, no matter who you identify with, you come here, feel safe and know that you’re in an environment where people will respect you,” Chaffin said.
Freshmen Billy Donley and Rachel Thomas said they are unfazed by the the experience level of their opponents.
“With RHA, the general gist of the organization is that (it) builds leaders,” Donley said.
He said he had his sights on the presidential campaign after falling in love with the organization within the first few weeks of his position as Jones Hall president.
Having previously worked with Donley on various legislation, Thomas said running with him seemed like a “really neat opportunity.”
Both Donley and Thomas said they are sure of the strength of their partnership.
Donley explained that their diverse interests — his being leadership and hers being service and sustainability — balance each other out. Furthermore, they said they don’t disagree very often.
To avoid doing so, they “are open about opinions, sit down, make sure we talk it out and look at the different sides of an issue,” Thomas said.
Their platform consists of four major ideas: Outreach, Sustainability, Foundation and Service.
The running mates explained that Outreach involves the executive members being more involved in the residence halls and them being approachable leaders on campus.
“Our platform, ‘Heart Mizzou,’ is based on heart,” Thomas said. “We are the heart of the residences, and the residences are the heart of RHA. That’s why RHA exists: purely for the benefit of the students.”
Thomas elaborated on their second pillar, Sustainability, which addresses issues ranging from expanding the MU Student Center’s bike share program to expanding recycling across campus.
Donley and Thomas said they realize sustainability goes beyond just “being green,” and that it also encompasses cost-efficiency.
Their third pillar, Foundation, addresses the inner workings of RHA and focuses on the creation of a diversity director position, to be a liaison between students of diverse backgrounds and organizations and RHA.
Finally, Service, their final pillar, is all about the value of giving back to the community, they said.
“Service is an incredibly important value that everyone should take through college and then after college,” Thomas said.
Donley said the most important issue for him is leadership and “just focusing on being an outlet for residents and to help build them as leaders and better people.”
Both Donley and Thomas said they believe what they have to offer as a team transcends their seeming lack of experience compared to Ruhe and Chaffin — Donley serves as marketing coordinator for the Department of Student Activities besides his hall presidency, and Thomas has served as an RHA advocacy representative besides being RHA Sustainability Coordinator.
"We are both so open to change and are willing to talk to anyone about any sort of issue,” Donley said. “Essentially, we are very approachable.”