From April 24 to May 1, UC Santa Barbara’s Residential Housing Association held its annual spring quarter elections, electing five individuals to its executive board and eight individuals to its coordinating board.
The five Residential Housing Association (RHA) executive board members – Laila Voss, Ashley Davis, Bee Schaefar, Angela Friedman and Megan Foster – will take office in fall 2019. Profiles of four of them can be found below, detailing their goals for the upcoming school year.
Foster could not be reached for an interview.
Laila Voss: President
Second-year English and economics double major Laila Voss will be returning to the RHA presidency for the 2019-2020 school year.
Voss first learned about RHA in the fall of her freshman year while serving as co-president on the Santa Catalina North Hall Council.
“For most people, residential living is their very first introduction to UCSB. When I first came to UCSB, I didn’t really like it here, and being in the residential community was something that really changed that for me,” Voss said.
While Voss said she recognized the importance of RHA’s primary focus on event planning and management, she felt that the association could further expand its supply of resources for residents by providing more professional and academic opportunities in the dorms.
“I think it’s important to have safe, alternative events that people can go to. But I also think that’s not what makes living in the dorms better. I think what makes living in the dorms better is having different kinds of facilities, opportunities and resources that you don’t get off campus,” Voss said.
With these insights in mind, Voss ran for RHA president against incumbent Kyle Bates in spring 2018 and won.
“I came into the position this year not necessarily knowing what I was getting myself into. I knew that I loved RHA’s mission, and I loved the fact that we get to do work that’s so personal and intimate,” Voss said.
One of Voss’s biggest goals this past year was working on the expansion of professional and academic resources for residents.
Voss is currently implementing a series of workshops focused on event planning and management. The workshops would teach students the basics of event planning, from making room reservations to funding requests.
During her presidency, Voss prioritized building connections with offices such as Residential and Community Living (RNCL) and Housing, Dining & Auxiliary Enterprises (HDAE). She said that she noticed a disconnect between these entities and residents and took it upon herself to become an intermediary.
“It’s not that these offices don’t care about these issues, it’s that they don’t know about them. Their offices are separate from students, and they don’t really employ students in their offices,” Voss said.
Voss explained that higher entities are often uninformed about everyday residential issues such as laundry malfunctions. She feels that by maintaining stronger channels of communication between these offices and RHA, these problems can be solved more efficiently and effectively.
“I’m someone who’s not really afraid to stand up and advocate for students, and I’m not someone who’s going to say I’m going to do something and then not do it. For me that has to do with going into a conversation with these offices with a really clear plan of exactly what I’d like to do,” Voss said.
Voss is also committed to seeking creative, alternative sources for funding when entities like RNCL are not equipped to fund certain programs. This includes applying for grants from the Zero Waste Committee and seeking funds from other organizations on campus.
“While we do have great sources of funding as RHA, I’m definitely willing to look to other resources if we can’t fulfill the kinds of things that I think are important to students through those resources,” Voss said.
As RHA president, Voss attended PACURH (Pacific Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls) housing conferences at UCLA and Southern Oregon University in November. Fifty schools from the Pacific Region, which includes California, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Oregon, were invited to the conference..
Voss said the money for conferences came entirely from fundraising and not student fees.
Voss also created “Resources with RHA,” a program that distributes hundreds of free midterm materials in the residence halls every quarter.
She is also working with several members of RHA to create a new position in Hall Councils next year: an International Student Engagement Chair. The position will work closely with the Office of International Student Services (OISS) to ensure adequate resources and opportunities for international students.
After completing her first year as RHA president, Voss decided to run again in an effort to accomplish her longer-term goals and projects.
Constant changes in leadership affect the productivity of student government each year, Voss said. This problem is especially pertinent for RHA, she added, since living in the residence halls is a requirement of being in the organization.
“Every single year RHA is completely different than the previous year, and very few of the projects are long-lasting,” Voss said.
Voss took 63% of the vote in this year’s RHA elections.
“I feel like I can take a lot of things I’ve done this year and make it even better for next year in a way that leaves a stronger foundation for the next RHA,” Voss said.
“I’m excited for the fact that in RHA we really have the agency to accomplish a lot of wonderful things, and that I feel like I have such a stronger idea of how RHA works and how to actually get projects off the ground,” Voss said.
[Editor’s Note]: Laila Voss is a copy editor for the Daily Nexus. She was not involved in the reading of this article before it was published. Sean Crommelin recused himself from covering and interviewing Voss due to social relationships with Voss.
Ashley Davis: Administrative Vice President
Ashley Davis, first-year sociology major, was elected to the position of Administrative Vice President for the 2019-2020 school year.
A member of Hall Council and a desk attendant at San Nicolas Residence Hall during her freshman year, Davis said she saw the executive board as a way to improve RHA.
As Administrative Vice President, Davis will be responsible for managing the bureaucracy and keeping residents informed.
“I’m the one making sure that people fill their office hours, that people fill their duties and [making sure] things run smoothly. It is really administrative things, and making sure everyone has the right information,” Davis said.
Davis plans to further refine and streamline the avenues through which students can communicate and become involved with RHA during her tenure as Administrative Vice President.
“I feel like a lot of residents don’t know what RHA is, and they kind of have a vague knowledge of their hall councils and don’t know if there’s anything above that. So I definitely want to make sure that residents not only know what we do, but [that] they know they can submit events and ideas and that they don’t have to go through Hall Council,” Davis said.
Davis hopes to make information more accessible to students. A common issue she saw working in Hall Council and as a desk attendant in San Nicolas Hall this year were the discrepancies between stated and actual office hours.
“I’m a desk attendant in San Nic and the biggest RHA office is in San Nic. So many times this year people have come up to me looking for the office to be open and it’s not, because somebody hasn’t done their office hours,” Davis said.
“If we tell residents we’re going to be there, we should be there.”
Beyond her specific role, Davis said she is excited to work with president-elect Voss, particularly because of Voss’s focus on student activism.
“A big program [Voss] wants to do is non-debitizing the laundry machines. We definitely want to expand period pantry and make sure that’s consistent,” Davis said.
Bee Schaefer: Programming Vice President
Bee Schaefer, first-year pre-biology major, was elected to the position of Programming Vice President for the 2019-2020 school year.
As Programming Vice President, Schaefer is the executive contact for all RHA Coordinating Board programs.
The Programming Vice President also serves as the Chair of the Residence Hall Programming Team.
Schaefer previously served as an activities chair of Manzanita Village Hall Council and was appointed as co-president of Manzanita Village during winter quarter.
As an event planner, Schaefer sees events as springboards for more lasting and meaningful interactions between students.
“[As] activities chair I had the line item to throw an event. I threw International Friendsgiving, and in that there was a lot of conversation, a lot of people coming together … I just saw people interacting in ways that I’d never seen when I go to an event,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer said the most important aspects of events and programs are not the events themselves but, rather, how events can be used to foster connections and feelings of togetherness that persist after the event has passed.
“In high school and in my life, I’ve seen events happen where you go into a room, somebody can say ‘Hey! Come to this social or this event,’ and you’ll go but you’re not really immersed. You go, you sit there, you might get a snack, you listen in, somebody asks for your name, but then they walk away and you’re kind of, like, left there. You don’t connect,” Schaefer said.
As co-president, Schaefer said she was drawn to the position of Programming Vice President because she felt it was unique among the other executive positions in regard to the interactivity with regular students.
“When the Manzanita presidency opened up, I thought that by being president I could do more, and you can, but you don’t really have opportunities to throw events. When I saw that Programming Vice President was opening next year, I realized that that’s what I really want to do,” Schaefer said.
Angela Friedman: National Communications Coordinator
Angela Friedman, first-year film and media studies major, was elected to the position of National Communication Coordinator for the 2019-2020 school year.
Friedman was appointed to Programming Vice President during Spring Quarter 2019 after the resignation of Austin Rowe.
She intended to solely run for re-election but decided to concurrently run for National Communication Coordinator (NCC) at the suggestion of Matt Hartt, the current NCC.
“The more I thought about it the more I thought I could learn from this position. I already have a really long background in programming, so taking on the role [of NCC] is a challenge,” Friedman said.
Friedman – the only freshman on the spring 2019 executive board – is one of two returning members alongside Voss.
“Every year, since there is usually a completely new board, they go through the exact same problems and they don’t figure out all the solutions until like halfway through winter quarter,” she said. “But since Laila and I will be returning to the same executive board, I feel like we’re gonna be able to continue to grow and we’ll be able to improve a lot of new programs.”
As NCC, Friedman is responsible for planning and executing conferences and delegations.
“A big chunk of what I have to do is organize UCSB’s portfolio, updating our constitution, keeping everything in check and making sure all our t’s are crossed and our i’s are dotted … [also] interviewing and appointing delegates to come [to conferences] and making sure our budget is there, among other things,” Friedman said.
Friedman aims to bolster the image of UCSB RHA among other RHA organizations across the American West and hopefully the entire country.
“My focus would be on UCSB abroad, so I would be representing us on the regional and national level to other schools and working on legislation for the overall RHA across the country,” Friedman said.
She also wants to broaden the scope of delegation during conferences and expose more people to the operations of RHA that go beyond the campus.
“I want to see if I can get more people outside of the coordinating board to come on the delegation and see what it looks like on the national and regional level,” Friedman said.