Residential living can help you, but it needs your support

Illustration of people looking out dorm windows
Armaan Mumtaz/Staff

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If you’re a member of a club or organization on campus who wants to increase your group’s visibility, if you’re a student who lives in the residence halls and wants to get involved in making the place you live in a better place or if you’re just interested in knowing more about the inner workings of residential life, this is an op-ed for you. Let’s talk residence halls.  

Ten months. That’s about how long the average UC Berkeley student calls the residence halls “home.” As thousands of undergraduate freshman students cycle through the residential halls every year, only a small proportion of residents go on to continue living in campus-affiliated housing. Observing these trends, some students might think that residential living is only something for freshmen. Some upperclassmen might reminisce about their time in the residence halls and reflect on what they didn’t enjoy, like broken elevators, and remember how they couldn’t wait to move out into an apartment with friends. 

While it is true that the majority of UC Berkeley housing residents are freshmen, that most UC Berkeley students will only live in the residence halls for a year and that the elevators do have an affinity for not working from time to time, something under this all goes unrecognized. Beyond the common conceptions, a community within the residence halls has been working to improve the quality of life for residents for more than 30 years. 

We’re called the UC Berkeley Residence Hall Assembly and we’ve been advocating for students living in campus housing since 1988. As our name suggests, we operate primarily as a legislative assembly. We are a body composed of representatives from every residence hall, from Priestley in Unit 3 all the way up to Clark Kerr Campus. Our reps meet in one central location every Monday night to pass bills adjusting our organization’s constitution, to hear and vote on sponsorship applications for funding from on-campus organizations, to work with the theme programs to put on informational or recreational events that benefit residents, and so much more. 

Outside of our Monday meetings, the RHA also creates its own programming. Earlier this year, we held a Sexual Health Fair in partnership with organizations such as the Tang Center and Sexual Health Education Program. Three hundred residents were educated about safe sex and sexual hygiene, while we offered them free snow cones to cool off on that hot day. 

While putting on these events, the RHA engages in advocacy work. Recently, the RHA passed its first-ever advocacy bill, in which we proposed our recommendations for how to improve the Cal Dining meal plan and experience. We gathered the recommendations straight from the residents, and our representatives worked for weeks to refine our proposal. 

The RHA works directly with the hall associations, which operate as a local government in the residence halls themselves and put on their own unit-specific programming. Through this network of hall associations, the RHA distributes information to residents about programming, advocacy initiatives and sponsorship opportunities that they can get involved in. 

In essence, the RHA wants to involve our residents in every way possible in the process of making their experience living with us more enjoyable. If you’re a current resident reading this, we want you to be a part of that. We want to work with on-campus groups and organizations in mutual ways to increase our influence and outreach in the larger campus community. We want to bring the larger campus community into the residence halls. We’re working to change the perception of residential living at UC Berkeley. 

Even if you might have only lived in the residence halls for a year, we want to reintroduce residential life to you. We want to make that first year you live in the residence halls a year in which you feel safe and part of a community. We want to catalyze these feelings and values for residents now and for residents in the future. We want to establish a positive culture in the residence halls. At our core, our vision is to improve the quality of life for our residents. We see you, anyone who might be reading this, as a part of that process. 

If you want to apply for RHA funding to put on events in the residence halls for the benefit of residents while reaching a market of new UC Berkeley students interested in applying for club positions and participating in your organizations, please apply to work with us. You can find us on our website, at residencehallassembly.com. If you want to talk more, you can always contact me at [email protected]   

Dylan Harriman is a sophomore studying rhetoric. He is the UC Berkeley Residence Hall Assembly vice president of public relations.