It was a busy week for the Residence Hall Association, which selected a new president and vice president Tuesday night.
The RHA Senate elected Steve Chen, a junior biology and individual studies major, as its new president and Sasha Galbreath, a junior government and politics major, as its new vice president.
Both candidates ran unopposed.
In addition to selecting new officers, the senate passed four resolutions regarding bike parking, reusable bags, changes to the fall move-in checklist and a dining-point donation drive. Each resolution passed unanimously.
Galbreath introduced the first resolution of the night, in which the senate voted to urge Facilities Management and Residential Facilities to build more bicycle parking around the campus.
“It’s become an observable issue that people are locking up their bikes on benches and other infrastructure on campus,” Galbreath said. “It becomes a safety concern, it’s not aesthetically pleasing … and it does kind of underscore the fact that we’re not living up to our potential as a sustainable campus.”
According to the resolution, the university builds bike parking only to maintain its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold status, granted to the campus by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Increasing the amount of bike parking is an easy way for the campus to push for the coveted platinum status, Galbreath said. Five universities in the country have achieved this distinction.
“That’s just one component of it,” Galbreath said. “The overarching component is just to encourage more bikers on campus and to kind of mitigate that danger when people do illegally park their bikes.”
Plastic and reusable bags
Two resolutions came out of the RHA’s Sustainability Committee concerning the use of plastic and reusable bags.
The senate first passed a broader resolution urging Dining Services to evaluate new incentives to encourage the use of reusable bags.
“As Dining Services switched their plans to anytime dining, we thought that we could accommodate that and kind of go along with it by reducing the use of other materials,” said Dana Rodriguez, sophomore finance major and chairwoman of the Sustainability Committee.
The resolution offered four proposals for Dining Services’ consideration: a bag tax on single-use plastic bags; increased discounts with the use of a reusable bag; increased placement and marketing of single-use plastic bag recycling receptacles; and further educational programming and outreach for students and staff.
University convenience stores currently offer a 5-cent discount on purchases if students use any form of reusable bag. Dining Services also sells reusable bags for $7.
In the debate period for the resolution, senators expressed concerns over the cost of reusable bags on the campus and whether the 5-cent discount is enough of an incentive to encourage reusable bag use. Less than 2 percent of students use reusable bags, according to a study conducted by the Sustainability Committee.
Rodriguez said the program will become more effective as Terp Bucks are phased out and people begin to feel the direct monetary impact of a 5-cent cost reduction.
This more general resolution led into a more concrete one urging the Department of Resident Life to add “one reusable or canvas grocery bag” to the fall move-in checklist.
The final resolution of the night supported this semester’s meal point donation drive to benefit So Others Might Eat, a Washington nonprofit that aims to help the homeless.
“Every semester we have a meal point donation drive that teams up with Dining Services,” said Alexis Leary, a senior government and politics major and the RHA’s finance officer. “We allow residents to donate one dining point, and we take all that money, convert it to real dollar value, and we sign a check out to a food-centered organization in the area.”
This semester’s drive is scheduled for Monday. Volunteers will be stationed at the North Campus Dining Hall from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., the South Campus Dining Hall from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 251 North from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.