RHA debates potential vice president position at SGA meeting

By Sam Hayes

Sam Hayes/Collegian

Amidst celebrations over the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association (SGA)’s 1600th  meeting on Wednesday, tensions rose between members of the SGA and members of the Residence Hall Association (RHA) when RHA leaders opposed legislation that would change the nature of the two bodies’ relationship.

The meeting began with several RHA leaders speaking. They explained that the night before the meeting, their organization had discovered that legislation had been created to form a vice president position for the SGA. Under the terms of the legislation, the vice president would potentially be able to “give direction to the director of RHA and, if necessary, dismiss the Director or any of the Assistant or Associate Directors from office,” the proposed motion read.

The RHA responded by creating a proposal for counter legislation that would have the RHA vote “no confidence” in the SGA and potentially “dissolve the relationship between the two organizations” should the proposed vice president motion pass. The proposal also said that the senate motion would “undermine the power of the General Assembly by removing the ability to determine who represents the students.”

“[The proposal for creating a vice-president position] goes against the agreement the SGA and RHA had when they were established,” said Dwight, Hamlin, and Leach President and RHA representative Joe Kalinowski at the beginning of the meeting.

“The SGA has proven to be a poor resource to house council,” Kalinowski continued. “I’ve never seen the [RHA] system work as well as it does now … the SGA has failed to give necessary support to the house council. I urge you to reconsider this legislation.”

Several SGA members objected to the RHA’s proposal for counter legislation.

“I am upset,” said SGA President Brandon Tower in a passionate response to the RHA. “I am upset because of the no-confidence vote that means you have no confidence in my cabinet. Well, I have enough confidence for the both of us.”

“RHA is part of the SGA,” continued Tower, explaining that the RHA and SGA cannot be two opposing parties. “[The no confidence vote] means you have no confidence in yourself as SGA members.”

Tower went on to express his disappointment with the RHA’s actions and their belief that their power could not be taken away from them.

“I can understand that it would undermine your authority,” said Tower, “but your power was given to you by us…we can take it away.”

Orchard Hill Governor Garrett Gowen sided with Tower, arguing that “the SGA is not challenging RHA; it is exercising control over a part of itself.”

SGA Speaker Modesto Montero also voiced opposition to creating an position of vice president, offering other reasons than the RHA.

“I oppose the idea of a vice president,” said Montero, “I couldn’t believe how easily we were going to change the SGA.”

Montero showed a PowerPoint presentation on other four-year public universities with around 20,000 students to compare the advantages and disadvantages of having vice presidents.

The senate took a five-minute recess prior to voting on the legislation. Upon return, the senate decided to table the motion until next week so as to have more time to look over it.

Legislation sponsor and SGA senator Zac Broughton said, “I am upset that we had to table the motion for research when [the senate] got it three weeks ago.”

In addition, Broughton said that he was “glad the RHA came to open a dialogue” but also that he had “every confidence that the vice presidency will be created.”

Billy Gaudino, author of the opposing RHA legislation, pointed out that the RHA’s concerns were not fully addressed at the meeting.

“President Tower’s argument had nothing to do with why we came,” he said “We only came to oppose that part of the motion. That was not addressed.”

Gaudino said that the RHA will be in attendance next week, when the motion is reconsidered.

Later on, a motion to have University Health Services accept veteran healthcare was also tabled until next week. This decision came after Speaker Montero’s recommendation that they look into it further, following an e-mail from Vice Chancellor Jean Kim stating that UHS does accept veteran health insurance.

The senate also passed a motion to appropriate $5,000 to the UMass Dance Team for tournament registration fees. Team captains Brigid O’Rourke and Ashley Konrad spoke before the senate.

In addition, Student Trustee Mike Fox spoke about the UMass Board of Trustees meeting next Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Massachusetts Room at the Mullins Center.

“I’m asking everyone in this room – SGA, RHA, and students –  please show up at this meeting,” said Fox “We are students and we care about something. I want to highlight the student leadership here at UMass.”

The Faculty Senate also created a new department for Women, Gender, and Sexual Studies, in addition to raising the maximum credit load for one semester from 18 to 19.

Sam Hayes can be reached at [email protected]