Residence Halls Association election problematic members say

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Members of the Residence Halls Association expressed concern over the lack of advertising and organization of the April 25-26 RHA Executive Board election during a meeting held April 27.

Jasmin Young, junior Pan-African studies major, was elected vice president of the student organization for the next academic year during last week’s election, and said students are unfamiliar with RHA and do not know the duties and benefits of the organization. Young is the current vice chair of the Park West Community Council, a small neighborhood organization representing one of four parks within the UPA.

The winner of the RHA presidency was freshman broadcast journalism major Bianca Magdaleno.

Young said the priority of the organization should be to address student concerns relative to housing. She said RHA meetings should be open forums for students to voice their thoughts, but said there were no students other than RHA members present at the April 27 meeting.

When she began to run for office, Young faced a number of frustrating obstacles, she said, including not being able to pick up an application for the election after they were supposed to be available to candidates.

The RHA is a student-run organization that is intended to serve the immediate needs of CSUN’s residents in the University Park Apartments. Students who live on campus pay a $15 fee to fund RHA, although they do have the opportunity to opt out of the fee when applying for housing, said Crystal Becks, RHA adviser and community coordinator for staff training and development for Student Housing.

Every resident of the UPA is technically a member of RHA, but voting is restricted to Executive Board and Community Council members.

Both Young and Charles Day, current chair of the Park North Community Council and defeated candidate for RHA presidential seat during last week’s election, expressed dissatisfaction with the advertising of the election which, according to Young and Day, was not completed until the day prior to the voting.

Both Day and Young also mentioned that a pre-election forum, intended to allow UPA residents an opportunity to meet candidates and hear their positions, was not advertised either. Young said that as a result, no students showed up at the forum, which ended up consisting of candidates simply talking to one another.

Day said key polling places that were supposed to be open and available for students to vote on April 26-27 were either closed down or never opened.

“They told me there was going to be a polling place outside of (UPA) Building 4 that did not show up, and I had advertised for people to vote there,” Day said. “Another (polling location) outside the (Satellite Student Union) closed down, and I was sending people there, too. I didn’t know it had closed down. The trust between students and the RHA has been broken, (and) the trust in the RHA electoral process has been broken.”

“This year’s (RHA) executive board had a tough start, due to internal group dynamics,” Becks said. “The board that (people) saw (at the April 27 meeting) has only been working together since January, and some of the issues are truly growing pains. I think that comes with any student-run organization that changes leadership every year, particularly if leadership is decided through an election process.”

Becks said the problems with the election were a result of students who are busy with other responsibilities.

“The other challenge I see here, particularly at CSUN, is that student leaders are very overwhelmed by contrasting and conflicting commitments, more so than I have seen at other schools,” Becks said.

Becks also addressed some of the election problems.

“The only way they were going to be able to staff (the tables) on their own was if they missed academic commitments, which I told them was not OK,” Becks said.

Becks also said the RHA staff tried to recruit extra help to work at polling stations, but were unsuccessful in doing so.

“The result is that some of the people running felt the election was intentionally unfair,” Becks said. “(But) from my perspective, there was nothing intentional or easy about the choice the board was forced to make.”