—Brittany Ruess, managing editor, contributed to this article.
Mariana Mejia Ahrens, president of RHA, was excited to see residents give input at Webster University Residential Housing Association’s (RHA) first “House Your Ideas” event.
“Seeing our advisors and the executive board and Pro Staff (Residential Housing Professional Staff) all being really supportive, that just makes me feel warm and fuzzy,” Ahrens said.
“House Your Ideas” was held on Monday, March 5 in the Sunnen Lounge. Students presented four housing issues to Residential Housing Pro Staff including John Buck, Justin Frederick, Katie Knetzer, Megan Wetzel and Chris Rice.
Students presented on the following issues:
—Lighting deficiencies in Maria Hall and the WVA
—Deficiencies in the WVA staircases
—Outside furniture and ashtray locations
—Speed bumps on the WVA parking lot and Hazel Avenue
“Advocating for the voice of the residents was one of the main goals and the way RHA works was already leading into that, but no actions were being taken into actually advocating,” Ahrens said. “We’re using RHA’s influence and our tied connection with the pro staff to actually get issues heard and taken care of so we just went a step further and had this event happen.”
Ahrens said they were inspired by the Delegates’ Agenda and paralleled that same process. Students who attended RHA’s Jan. 30 meeting raised their concerns. Each student in attendance was allowed three votes to determine the top issues. Residents volunteered to present on the issues.
Ahrens said RHA has worked on the event since an RHA summer 2011 retreat.
“My excitement has been building up from the summer. I was really glad RHA was finally going to have the chance to really advocate and really be the voice of the residents,” Ahrens said.
Juan Salas, freshman audio major, presented on outside furniture. Salas said there should be more outdoor tables and chairs for students.
“(It’s about) people having the opportunity to hang out outside and socialize outside, and be a community outside,” Salas said. “That kind of ballooned into the smoking problem, which was unfortunate.”
Salas said both issues should be addressed; however, he feels they are two separate issues.
“It wasn’t really the exchange of ideas I was hoping for about how can we better the spaces around the residence halls, and it went into, ‘Oh, there’s people smoking outside my doors.’”
Questions and comments after Salas’ presentation heavily included the smoking issue. Several students suggested adding covered smoking areas.
Stu Macki, freshman film production major, presented on the state of the Webster Village Apartments’ (WVA) stairs, requesting that repairs be made. Macki showed a video of WVA building five’s cracked steps. Buck said they have been repairing WVA stairs for the past couple summers as needed.
“I liked John Buck’s feedback on how they are constantly looking at the WVA stairs to make sure that there’s nothing that needs to be replaced, and if there is, they are constantly replacing them,” Macki said.
Buck, director of Housing and Residential Life, said he appreciates the students’ research on the ideas they presented.
“I think they brought four very diverse, unique issues that have a lot of play with a lot of residents,” Buck said. “I liked a lot of the commentary that came after the presentations from the questions and comments from the gallery. I grew up in RHA as a student myself, so I know that RHA can be a strong advocacy voice for residential concerns.”
Buck said “House Your Ideas” was an excellent effort from RHA that he would like to see it become a routine each year.
“This is the advocacy I’ve been praying for,” Buck said.
The Housing and Residential pro staff will address the issues in an upcoming RHA meeting.