The University of Maryland’s RHA Senate voted Tuesday to create a new position focused on diversity and inclusion in its hall and area councils.
The resolution, which passed 27-1, was introduced by the Residence Hall Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Committee. The committee recommended introducing a vice president council position into each council, who would directly advocate for and introduce inclusion efforts in their respective residence halls and communities.
“RHA has said for a long time that we are committed to diversity and inclusion, but we’ve never really taken any concrete actions,” said Bryan Gallion, the association’s president-elect.
Gallion, a junior journalism major, said the position will encourage council and resident assistant collaboration to implement diversity and inclusion practices.
“[The new position is] going to be meeting with a lot of campus departments that work in this sector, planning events and getting the residents involved, and just making sure that their residents feel included,” Gallion said.
Some senators, however, were worried that creating the new position would be too much responsibility for next year’s freshmen RHA members — who would be the ones living in the halls and holding the position.
“I was worried these people would come into these positions and not really know what to do with them,” said Shawn Verma, a South Campus Commons area council senator.
Many of the residence halls are represented by freshmen, Verma said, and might not have enough training to effectively be a diversity and inclusion vice president.
Verma, a junior computer engineering major, said he was concerned the RHA “wouldn’t have people knowing what they are doing with [the new positions] and they would be kind of a waste.”
RHA President Dana Rodriguez also shared her concerns, emphasizing that she thinks it is important not to have empty, unguided executive positions.
“I think of us as a leadership organization, and if we just shove people to fill executive positions, we are not affording people other opportunities to learn and develop their own initiatives related to diversity and inclusion,” Rodriguez said.
While Gallion will not be a part of the council next year, he said the committee is ensuring this position will be advised and guided by having a weekly meeting with an adviser to hold the new vice president accountable.
Helen Liu, the RHA’s public relations and outreach officer, said she believes those who hold the position will be well guided by their adviser, Aaron Hood, who serves as the Department of Resident Life’s coordinator for student leadership programs and the executive board and the committee’s adviser.
“As the adviser, his job is to provide guidance and to help develop committee members into leaders,” Liu said. “So I don’t think it’s a big concern.”