Administrators cancel Residential Hall Council program, try to revamp for next year

Pitzer administrators are attempting to revive the Residence Hall Council program after the program was cancelled this year due to low interest. (Justin Sleppy • The Student Life)

After Pitzer College’s Residential Hall Council program was inactive for the 2018-19 academic year, administrators are attempting to revive and revamp the program.

Previously, the campus was split into three blocs of residence halls, each with its own council. RHCs put on events for their halls and addressed student concerns about amenities in the residences. But they have been plagued by issues since as early as 2010, according to Kirsten Carrier, Pitzer’s associate dean of students.

“It was obvious that we were not having as many students invest and be interested in being a part of our hall councils,” Carrier said. “It wasn’t something that they found either rewarding or necessary or exciting. Recruitment was always a problem.”

Only six people expressed interest in running for the hall council for the 2018-19 school year, Carrier said, which was not enough to hold elections.

Clint Isom PZ ’20, Pitzer Student Senate’s vice president of external affairs, said Residential Life administrators told him they chose to suspend the program for other reasons.

“They told me that they didn’t implement [the RHCs] because they wanted to see what would happen if they didn’t,” he said. “I know Res Life has the capacity and resources to facilitate that and I do know they could set those hall councils up if they felt so inclined.”

Looking forward to next year, Carrier and Desiree Ross, the residence director for Pitzer, Atherton and Sanborn Halls, suggested a new hall council model in a presentation to the Student Senate Feb. 17, according to Senate minutes. The new model would combine the three councils into one RHC with a budget of $5,000.

Carrier’s and Ross’ proposal is taken from the national Residence Hall Association model used at various colleges across the country.

Isom said he supported the model, but that the responsibility is on Residence Life to make the program work. Other students agreed, but first-year class representative Keely Nguyen PZ ’22 disagreed that an RHA could work at Pitzer.

“The new model would theoretically work for a university or a large campus but it is unrealistic that Pitzer will successful achieve the new model,” she said. “I believe that the new proposal is a waste of resources because it is a revamp of what has been dead.”

Nguyen described Carrier and Ross’ proposal as “idealistic” and their $5,000 budget request as too high.

Carrier said she hasn’t received any student complaints about the lack of RHCs this year.

“I don’t believe people saw them as super necessary or functional,” Carrier said.

However, both Isom and Nguyen said they have received student questions about the lack of RHCs.

Nguyen also said the lack of RHCs has prevented students from making changes in their residence halls such as acquiring funding for cooking utilities. Isom said the changes particularly disadvantaged first-years, who were generally active in RHCs.

Carrier envisions the future RHC as a way for students to advocate for change or renovations within their specific residential communities, including in dining halls, as well as allocating spaces for affinity groups.

“I really don’t see [RHCs] as a programming body, I see them as an advocacy group,” Carrier said. “We have plenty of groups on campus that do programming and I’d much rather have this group focused on what needs to be improved.”

Carrier and Isom both agree it is important to have RHCs for the 2019-20 year. Isom said that if administrators are unable to set up a program, Pitzer Senate may do so.

“If it’s not up and running next year, Senate is going to probably look into forming Hall Councils again and just having those managed by Senate,” he said. “I don’t think that’s Senate job necessarily but it is a disservice to the student body not to have some type of Hall Councils, especially for the freshmen.”

Most of the 5Cs do not have residence hall governance structures, but Harvey Mudd College has Residence Hall presidents who are members of ASHMC, lead hall meetings and coordinate activities and services for the halls.

This story was updated March 1 at 12:20 a.m. to reflect that the program was inactive, not cancelled.

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