RHA members share experiences

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Campus Reporter

Back when Eastern was first founded, the university had two different residence hall associations: the Women’s Residence Hall Association (WRHA) and Men’s Residence Hall Association (MRHA).

That decision was made due to the fact the university had separate women’s and men’s residence halls, but when the university started having co-ed residence halls, the two combined to form what is known as the Residence Hall Association (RHA).

Jaclyn Thomas, a junior interpersonal communication student, is Residence Hall Association’s president.

She said that every residence hall, including Greek Court, gets three representatives who attend the association’s weekly meetings.

Along with three representatives from each residence hall, the Residence Hall Association executive board and four advisors attend these meetings. If one of the representatives is unable to attend a meeting, a proxy, someone else from their residence hall’s council, will attend for them.

The meetings are open to the public, so sometimes Associate Resident Directors and guest speakers will attend them.

“Recently this year we’ve had people come from the Civic Engagement and Volunteerism Office, Panther Dining, and the EIU Naming Forum,” Thomas said.

During these meetings, all attendees can share information and knowledge with one another.

“[The representatives] share information about what’s going on in their halls, and get information from us and other housing staff to bring back to their halls,” Thomas said. “We just share information about what’s going on, keep everyone updated and things like that.”

The association also uses these meetings to vote on different issues.

“There is the big discussion of renaming Douglas Hall right now, so [the EIU Naming Forum] wanted RHA feedback,” Thomas said. “They came and talked with us at a meeting, and we voted on whether or not we supported that.”

The association is known for planning two major events every fall and spring, starting with Neighborhood Week in the fall semester.

Neighborhood Week allows the residence halls to compete against one another in fun activities and events

This school year, the Neighborhood Week events included a scavenger hunt, a relay race, and many other fun activities, with prizes for the winners of these events.

In the spring semester, Residence Hall Association hosts Social Justice and Diversity Week.

Social Justice and Diversity Week is a week of events that brings students together to help them understand the diverse and unique world we live in. The week focuses on programming and activities that educate the community and spread awareness on important issues.

Residence Hall Association also does window-painting competitions between the residence halls. Window-painting is a big part of living in the residence halls, and like other events the association hosts, its purpose is to get students excited to live on campus.

Despite all the hard work the association has put in to make sure they can keep providing their services and hosting programs for the Eastern community, Covid affected Residence Hall Association as it has with many organizations on-campus.

With many of the association’s events and meetings happening online, it was tough getting students involved at first.

“A lot of people weren’t comfortable or didn’t want to be on a Zoom call when they’ve been in Zoom classes all day, but I do think it actually has gained us some people as well who may not have wanted to come to an in-person thing,” Thomas said. “People who might have been very shy and afraid have been able to get involved with online meetings and feel more comfortable in their own space.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, students from the association used to attend huge conferences where they had the opportunity to meet residence hall associations from other universities in the area. They were able to attend these conferences because of their affiliations with residence hall associations across the United States.

Benjamin Drake, a sophomore history education student, is the Illinois and national communications coordinator for the association.

“We are affiliated on the state level with IRHA, which is the Illinois Residence Hall Association,” Drake said. “Regionally, which is Michigan, Ontario, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, with Great Lakes Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls. Then nationally with the National Association of College and University Residence Halls.”

Drake said that these conferences provide great opportunities for the students in Residence Hall Association.

“It’s a great opportunity for us because it gives us a voice within the region and the nation, and it allows us to provide students with connections with other institutions,” Drake said.

Residence Hall Association does not have any major plans for the upcoming semester, but the association did add a new position to the executive board. The new executive board member will run the media and marketing for the association

Apart from that, the association simply hopes that things will change for the better in the upcoming semester.

“Hopefully we can go back in person because all of our meetings have been over Zoom,” Drake said.

 

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]