RHA Presidential Race Kicks Off

Left to right: Laila Voss, Kyle Bates, and Jasmine Mathias are candidates for the 2018 RHA Presidential Elections. (Photos by Juan Gonzalez/Staff Photographer)

Nkechi Ikem
Staff Writer

This week, three candidates, Kyle Bates, Laila Voss, and Jasmine Mathias, will be vying to be the next Residential Housing Association President for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year.

Bates, a second year global studies major who currently holds the position of RHA President, is running for re-election. For her second term, Bates says she wants to tackle on larger scale programming to bring the residence halls closer together and provide more support to residential assistants.

“RAs and [the] RHA are the two pillars of housing that are able to reach students directly,” Bates told The Bottom Line. “Right now, we don’t really work together which I think is a wasted opportunity. Next year, I plan on working with lead staff to create a closer working relationship between the two groups.”

Bates is being challenged by Laila Voss, a first year English and economics double major and current co-president of the Santa Catalina North Hall Council, and Jasmine Mathias, a first year economics major and current Queer and Trans Student Engagement Chair for the Santa Catalina North Hall Council.

Voss says she’s primarily interested in changing how things have always been done by bringing in more people into contact with RHA. One idea she has is to create a RHA fellows program so that more people can intern and interact with the residence halls while simultaneously gaining career development skills.

“I feel like the RHA president needs to be someone who is not afraid to make changes and step away from precedent,” Voss said. “We get really got up in precedent and doing what we did before, and I personally think RHA could be doing a lot more.”

Mathias says that her goal in running for RHA President is to make the residence halls a more inclusive space.

“Even as accepting and diverse as UCSB is, there are still a lot of problems and stigma associated with minority groups,” said Mathias. “I’d promote informative events centered around popular cultural misconceptions to further inform the UCSB community.”

Compared to general Associated Students elections, RHA elections remain relatively calm and nonpartisan. As per campaigning rules, RHA candidates are barred from wearing A.S. campaigning materials, including shirts, that “promotes a candidate or party” and adhere to strict rules that limit visitation, flyering, and campaign.

But minor controversy has disturbed what is usually an easygoing portion of election week.

As mentioned before, Bates is currently RHA president and is running as the incumbent. Though Bates was not voted in by the general student body, she was selected to take over from democratically-elected Michelle Jocson-Macrohon, after Macrohon resigned from her term last fall.

After Macrohon resigned, an ad-hoc committee of three RHA members were selected to interview and put forward a candidate who would take over as president. That committee recommended Bates as the candidate to the RHA Coordinating Board in January 2018.

Kevin Sabellico, the former co-president of San Rafael Hall Council who resigned from his post earlier this month, said that he was on the RHA Coordinating Board that voted to affirm Bates as the new RHA president.

During the meeting Bates was presented, Sabellico says he asked if Bates had plans to run for RHA president for the 2018-2019 year. At the time, Bates responded that she did not have plans to run, which Sabellico claims worked in her favor to be confirmed.

“I think that her confirmation would have been rejected had she not answered yes to that question,” Sabellico told TBL.

But others are refuting the idea that the question had any impact on whether Bates would be confirmed to take over for Macrohon, and whether it should matter at all for this race. James Ferraro, who was on the ad-hoc committee that recommended Bates, disagrees that the question held that much weight at all.

“This is a non-story,” Ferraro said to TBL about Bates’ eventual decision to run. “It’s a democratic process and someone changing their mind three months after one insignificant question is a common occurrence.”

Michelle Chang, who was involved in RHA last year as the Santa Cruz Hall Representative-At-Large, agreed that Bates did nothing wrong.

“She totally is not and was not being dishonest,” said Chang, who is no longer with RHA.

Bates herself is upfront about being asked the question and told TBL that at the time she had not considered running. But as she assumed the role, she grew to feel more passionate about the duties of being an RHA president.

“That’s completely true. At that time, I said no because I wasn’t planning on it,” Bates told TBL. “However, after having served as president for a quarter, I realized I really enjoyed this role. It’s fun to offer guidance to future leaders in the halls.”

Voting for RHA President, and A.S. positions, will be available to students this week starting Monday on GOLD. Polls will close Thursday, April 26 at 4 p.m.

An earlier version of this article mistakenly referred to the Residential Housing Association as the Residence Hall Association. RHA changed its name from the latter to the former in 2016.