Third-year College students Morgan Hughes and Roshan Baddeliyanage have been chosen as Housing and Residence Life co-chairs for the upcoming 2023-24 school year. The team’s main goals are to improve the program from within by balancing student self-governance with support from professional staffers in addition to prioritizing upperclassman housing.
The HRL co-chair positions work with full-time staff to hire, supervise and mentor student Resident Staff members. Chairs also serve as a liaison between student staffers and University administration.
“What makes housing so special is student self-governance — we're a program that really runs itself,” Hughes said. “Promoting that student self-governance of the program while also building a foundation with professional staffers so the program can move forward into the coming years.”
Hughes and Baddeliyanage said that student self-governance within HRL involves creating roles where students can have an impact on other students.
“Whether you’re co-chair, vice chair, SR or RA, you’re really just all working toward that goal together, and you’re kinda given that opportunity to build community in your own unique way,” Baddeliyanage said.
In addition to broader goals regarding self-governance, Hughes and Baddeliyanage will be responsible for navigating the daily aspects of residents’ housing experiences. Hughes said the role of co-chairs is to advocate for both resident staff and residents — especially when issues in quality of living arise.
In the fall, many students felt unsatisfied with HRL’s response to reports of mold found in first-year dorms earlier. Students reported physical symptoms associated with mold exposure.
“We are concerned about reports like this that we've seen,” Hughes said. “We encourage residents and staffers to continue to report maintenance issues, and we will use to the best of our ability our efforts as co-chairs to advocate and support the best interests of our staffers at the administrative level.”
Fair and equal accessibility to all University housing is also an HRL priority. Students with disabilities often need differentiated housing assignments in order for their residences to be fully accessible and compliant with SDAC accommodations.
Hughes said accommodations are designed to be flexible and that HRL tries to allow every disabled student to live where they wish.
“Housing approaches [accommodations] on a case by case basis to see what is the best accommodation for that student,” Hughes said. “That applies for all of our communities — wherever a resident wants to live, they work with housing to see where it is feasible for them on a case by case basis.”
Hughes and Baddeliyanage are also thinking about how an increase in upperclass housing can be supported by resident staff. The Board of Visitors has been considering requiring all second-year students live on Grounds as part of University President Jim Ryan’s 2030 Strategic Plan. The plan — not yet implemented — would involve a significant expansion of current on-Grounds housing.
While the co-chairs are not directly involved in the decision-making process for the second-year housing requirement, Baddeliyanage and Hughes include the upperclassmen housing experience in their vision for the co-chair position.
“[We] are interested in really thinking about what that upperclassmen housing experience looks like as we move towards more and more second years transitioning to live on Grounds, and making sure it is a meaningful experience for student staffers — as well increasing the number of upperclassmen residents that will live on Grounds,” Hughes said.
Upperclassmen are currently in the process of selecting their on-Grounds housing for the 2023-24 school year. Incoming first-year students will receive their housing assignments over the summer.
Hughes and Baddeliyanage have both previously served as RAs, and they are currently SRs in first-year dorms. RAs are chosen through a competitive, three-round application process. To be eligible for the SR position, the candidate must have at least one year of experience as an RA.
Hughes and Baddeliyanage said they are looking forward to their new tenures as co-chairs and the potential to empower all members of HRL — both residents and staff.
“Our motto is ‘make housing a home,’ but that really is what it is, and that doesn’t just mean for residents,” Baddeliyanage said. “Yes, we’re putting so much work into making sure that residents… [are] having an amazing experience and they can call that place their home, but also focusing on our staffers.”
Both chairs said they had positive experiences with first-year housing, which motivated them to become involved with HRL leadership — and ultimately apply for the co-chair position.
“[HRL] truly has made my [University] experience, whether it's being able to grow as a person or meet amazing people and building relationships that I hold very dear and fostering those connections throughout dorms,” Baddeliyanage said. “I definitely want to pay that forward, overall increasing that sense of togetherness in the community.”
Hughes and Roshan will replace fourth-year Batten student Holly Sims and fourth-year College student Karissa Ng.