Students elect Hall Council for residence halls

By Macey Zaffina / For the Pitt News

In total, Pitt has about 6,200 students living in residence halls on campus. In a show of small-scale democracy, those students chose 99 of their peers to lead them through the year.

On Tuesday night, the Resident Student Association held their annual Hall Council elections, where each student living in a residence hall gets a chance to vote on student leaders for their respective building. Each hall elects nine members to help organize events and facilitate collaboration among hall residents.

The voting period closed Tuesday night, but RSA will announce the official results Wednesday afternoon through an email to the individual residence halls.

While most halls have their own council, the residence halls in the quad as well as Sutherland East and West have a combined council.

The Hall Council is responsible for building a collaborative community in each residence hall as well as Pitt’s residence hall community as a whole through arranging programs and events and addressing issues that residents propose. Each respective Hall Council will be responsible for organizing annual programs such as the Lothrop Challenge, Spring Carnival, Pie your RSA and the R.A. fundraiser.

The elected positions include president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, programming chair, public relations chair, civic engagement chair, advocacy chair and recognition chair, which highlights students who make the residence halls a more positive place.

Newly elected council member Reagan Harper, who was chosen for the public relations chair for Panther Hall, said she plans to focus her efforts on connecting residents with varying majors. Harper, a sophomore anthropology major, joined RSA last year as a floor representative for Tower B but wanted to get more involved this year.

“The Engineering LLC is in Panther [Hall], and those students would have different schedules from students in Dietrich’s School or the College of Business,” Harper said in an email. “Programs that appeal to all students can offer an opportunity that some students just might not have to meet each other.”

For Greg Brown, the resident director and Hall Council advisor for Nordenberg Hall, Hall Council offers students a chance to interact with Pitt administration because they have the most access to administration members responsible for accommodating Pitt students that live on-campus.

In an email, Brown encouraged new Hall Council members to take advantage of their positions because, “very few students have access to Student Affairs staff in the way that Hall Council members do.”

Caroline Seifert, a junior literature and political science major, served as Holland Hall’s vice president during the 2014-15 academic year. In her role, she assisted with programs that her Hall Council organized, such as the campus-wide event hosted in the “haunted” tunnels below Holland Hall, known as Haunted Holland.

Her drive to become involved in the Hall Council her first year at Pitt stemmed from her belief that, “what you learn outside the classroom is just as much, if not more in some cases, important than the learning that goes on in lectures.”

“It was the first step I took to growing as a leader, and I do not think I would be where I am today without my wonderful Holland Hall Council,” Seifert said about her previous Hall Council term.

Jahari Mercer, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering who served as advocacy chair for Forbes Hall’s Hall Council during the 2015-16 academic year, said he focused on improving engineering student’s residence life through expanding hydration stations from only one in the building to one on every floor.

Mercer hopes the new 2016-17 Hall Council incorporates new programs and improves the Hall Council’s efficiency.

“I would love to see the Hall Council put on programs to address issues of diversity and inclusion,” Mercer said in an email. “I also would like to see them find unique ways to save money while still producing quality programming.”

As the new Hall Councils begin their year-long term, Seifert recommends that new members focus on productive communication.

To help with this, the RSA executive board, a six-member board that oversees the Hall Council and the RSA, plans to organize leadership development workshops and will address communication issues at their monthly Town Hall meetings, according to Ian Snyder, president of the RSA executive board.

The newly elected Hall Council members will also attend the Sept. 18 executive board’s leadership retreat at Benedum Hall to kick off their training and year-long term. Elections for executive board positions are in March, and the terms run from May to May each year.

Snyder, a junior political science major, said the Hall Council is a fundamental part of the Pitt community because many executive board initiatives are heavily supported by Hall Council’s efforts.

“In many ways, [the Hall Council] are the backbone of the organization, and their participation and ideas shape the impact we have on a campus-wide level each year,” Snyder said.

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