Residence Hall Associations (RHAs) and Hall Councils are student organizations commonly found in residence halls across the United States. Typical functions for these organizations include student-lead programming, community building efforts, and representation and advocacy around issues of concern to students. When developing a curricular approach, a number of institutions have questioned what role these types of organizations should play under this different model.
In many ways, a curricular approach has minimal impact on the traditional work of RHAs and Hall Councils–students still need a voice in institutional decision-making and social and community building efforts are still important. Community building and social programs don’t end under a curricular approach, although the nature of these programs may change. RAs, however, may do fewer logistics-intensive social programs and more informal hall-level and floor-level community building activities. This allows RHAs and Hall Councils to focus on larger-scale more heavily-planned social events and ways of building community hall and campus-wide.
One of the essential elements of a curricular approach states, “Student leaders and staff members are considered to be facilitators rather than designers of educational strategies” (Kerr et al., 2017, p. 25). Although students should have voice in the process, it is unfair to expect student staff members and student leaders to learn how to write, design, and assess learning objectives. Your curriculum should focus on the core of learning you hope for all of your students–in a sense your “general education” requirements– and if an RHA or Hall Council identifies other needs that they want to engage in educational work around, it can act as a great supplement to your efforts.
Another way to view RHAs and Hall Councils is as opportunities for student leadership development. Working with the students, you could develop a leadership curriculum, that can help students learn important leadership skills. It’s likely that some form of leadership development already occurs on campus, perhaps in your Office of Student Activities. This presents an excellent opportunity to partner with other colleagues on campus to develop a more consistent leadership development program. Rather than duplicate efforts already existing on campus, partner and create stronger experiences for students.