Few participate in RHA elections

By and

Despite having to pay $22.50 to the Residence Halls Association every semester, few students who live on campus are involved in the elections to choose the new RHA president and vice president.

Only one party decided to run this year and will most likely win the elections without contest. If students decide to vote for a write-in candidate online, that person could win instead, said Zach Rusk, current president of the association.

Mikaela Ray, a sophomore in nursing who attended a Q-and-A session with the candidates last Wednesday, said she thinks students don’t participate in RHA elections because they don’t know about them.

“I don’t think it was advertised very well for residents to run as candidates except for those who go to General Assembly,” she said. “I had no idea elections were going on until a friend of mine who is involved told me.”

David Stone, a member of the RHA council, thinks residents don’t know what the association can do for them. If residents knew more about what the president and vice president do, they would be more interested in being a part of it and affecting the outcome, Stone said.

The RHA president and executive board control a budget of roughly $50,000 and use the money to plan programs and activities. The association also represents residents’ interests regarding policy changes.

Melissa Simpson, a senior in exercise and sports science, is the only candidate running for president. Clint Hugie, a junior in philosophy, is her running mate. The two candidates explained their plan for getting residents more involved in RHA during the session and answered questions from residents who attended. Simpson, who is the current vice president of RHA, plans to make it so students know more about what the organization can do for them.

“I want to help make sure residents are aware of RHA and know what’s going on,” she said. “We’re going to put a big focus on spreading information.”

Simpson plans to send out a weekly newsletter to let residents know about activities. E-mails that get sent out about activities are deleted a lot, she said.

Some residents said they didn’t receive any e-mails about elections and don’t know very much about the association.

“I may have got an e-mail about it, but I never check my U-mail account where it’s sent,” said Beux Dmitrich, a sophomore in biology.

Cadence Steffan, a marketing sophomore said she doesn’t even know what the association is and assumes it probably doesn’t have too much power to affect residents.

April Stevenson, the advisor for RHA, isn’t too surprised that many students aren’t involved.

“When you think about it, there were only two parties within ASUU during their elections despite the coverage they received,” she said. “We have less than a tenth of their population.”

Stevenson also said over the past four years, the number of parties running has fluctuated. Last year there were two parties running, and this year there is only one, she said.

The president and vice-president are required to have a minimum 2.0 GPA and be up-to-date in tuition and rent payments.

Online voting ends tonight. Residents can vote online at rha.utah.edu or housing.utah.edu.

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Carlos Mayorga

Melissa Simpson and Clint Hugie, candidates for president and vice president of the Residence Hall Association for next school year, answer questions from student residents Wednesday night in the Heritage Center.