Residence Hall Association’s budget at relative low due to retreat, scholarship costs

By Stuart Foster

Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian
(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

The University of Massachusetts’ Residence Hall Association’s current budget is comparatively lower than in year’s past, as the organization has spent significantly on the funding for a weekend retreat, RHA merchandise and stipends for members of its executive board.

The RHA’s budget currently sits at $19,964 after beginning the semester with $77,638, according to information provided to the Daily Collegian via the RHA. The organization previously believed it had just $5,964 left in its budget for the year, before members discovered roughly $14,000 in carry-over funds from the previous fiscal year’s budget.

The RHA is a subsidiary student government that votes on funding requests from other student organizations on campus. The group’s funding for its budget comes directly from fundraising efforts, according to the RHA’s Constitution, although additional funding can be provided by the Residential Life Department.

Emma Kearns, a sophomore history major and director of the RHA, cited the absence of a carry-over budget and turnover among staff from the previous semester as a reason for the smaller budget.

“We have a completely new Executive Board this semester,” Kearns said. “We automatically had a smaller budget.”

Breahaana Schwartz, a sophomore BDIC major that was in RHA last year, said the group still had $20,000 in its budget in spring 2015.

The RHA said it spent $33,200 of its $77,638 budget on a weekend retreat for group members to visit the Berkshire Outdoor Center in Beckett. The group paid for housing, food and transportation for its members. However, only approximately 120 members attended the retreat, according to Kearns, which was well below the expected attendance of 250 members.

According to Kearns, a minimum of 250 expected guests was required by Berkshire Outdoor Center to reserve reservations.

“Every year RHA has a leadership retreat,” Kearns said. “We opened it up this year to any residential students.”

Kearns said that the people who went on the retreat participated in leadership programs and had a section where they created banners for residence halls.

Another $24,000 of the RHA’s budget was spent on an expenditure listed in the budget as “Scholarships”. According to Kearns, each member of the RHA’s Executive Board receive a $1,500 stipend from the budget each semester.

“We don’t get paid,” said Kearns. “We get the scholarship taken out.”

The RHA also spent $12,230 on expenditures listed as “Swag” on its budget sheets, which include items such as sweatshirts and T-shirts that the group uses for promotional purposes.

“We give those out to our members,” Kearns said. “We give them out during events that we hold on campus.”

Kearns said the RHA plans to participate in more fundraising this year than they had in the past to raise its budget. She said the group will continue to accept funding requests from other student organizations as the year progresses.

She added that the RHA was going to try to become more of an advocacy base for students, in order to be seen as more than just another organization on campus.

“We want residential students to know that they can come to us if they want to change something in their residence hall,” Kearns said.

The UMass Student Government Association passed a motion at last week’s SGA Senate meeting which formed a special Evaluation Committee to oversee subsidiary governments, such as the RHA. The Evaluation Committee is intended “to assess the role, responsibility, operating policies and financial policies of all Subsidiary Governments of the SGA.”

The motion, 2015-F5, cited “serious concerns” about the operating practices of subsidiary governments on the UMass campus.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.