By Julia Barth, Features Editor
At the start of the fall semester in 2020, the Residence Hall Association (RHA) did not exist. After a series of mishaps, e-board members graduating as well as the outbreak of the pandemic, the club ended up falling between the cracks.
That was, it did not exist until Rami Daham — a sophomore double majoring in economics and political science — had a question about the residence halls. As a freshman, he lived in the dorms alongside all of the other resident students, and when he had a minor issue, he brought it up with Student Life. They told him to go to RHA. Little did he know, RHA wasn’t up and running at the time.
From there, Daham took it into his own hands to rebuild what was once known as RHA, and since its restart at the end of 2020, there are now over 70 active members that attend general body meetings, programs and events. At first, Daham filled the roles of all of the e-board members, but now he has an expansive and diverse e-board, with many of the spots being filled by current freshmen.
“That first semester,” he said, “we really focused on rewriting that Constitution. Now, having freshmen participating will really help with the continuity of RHA.” Daham also noted that having freshmen fill the ranks as well as participate in the general body meetings is very helpful. “They are the main ones to experience the dorms. They give us the most impactful feedback on living on campus,” he said.
Now that RHA has been reestablished, students on campus might be familiar with a few of their extremely popular events. The biggest turnouts have been for Midnight Breakfast as well as Grilled Cheese and Nacho Nights, in which hundreds of students came out for the food and free giveaways. However, Daham’s favorite events are the general body meetings the club holds. At these meetings, RHA orders pizza and wings and sits down with students to discuss residence life matters as well as to hold a forum for students to voice their concerns.
That section of the meeting is known as “Candid Convos,” and Daham finds that it’s great for students who have concerns but might not voice them otherwise if there weren’t a meeting held to do it. Usually, Daham said, when one person says something, other students chime in with the same problem which allows RHA to become aware of an issue that many students are facing. For example, both freshmen dorms are currently undergoing renovations that necessitated that refrigerators on each floor were removed. Some students who used the refrigerators were inconvenienced, and now RHA is partnering with Student Life to give out loaner mini-fridges to students who need it.
This is the RHA’s goal, Daham said: to listen to students and advocate for them. “My job isn’t to advocate for me. It’s to advocate for all students. We’re really trying to keep residents the most updated and engaged population as we can,” Daham said.
Daham has been extremely happy with student engagement this year, but he has noticed a lack of student attendance to programs and events around campus. He described engagement as a waiting game, noting that the freshmen class this year has really stepped into clubs, sports and events with a passion for getting to know their school and their peers. But building a sense of community is an important goal for RHA in the coming years. They are experimenting with new events and new incentives to get students to campus events as well as make those events a good time so that students will come back for more.
Daham is especially happy with the motivation and drive that Director for Student Engagement Jason Francey has brought with him to his new position at Canisius. Francey has worked with club leaders all around campus, including Daham, to foster a community of engagement around campus coming out of the pandemic.
To sum it up, Daham encouraged all students to do their part in engaging in campus events in general, saying student engagement “isn’t just Senate’s job; it’s not just RHA’s job; but it’s every club leader’s job. And even more so, it’s every student’s job.”
To get involved with RHA, search their name on Canisius Life, look out for general body meetings and other programming in the Today@Canisius emails or Stall Street Journal, or email Daham at email@example.com with any questions.