A Shared Perspective on Student Government, Hall Council

We write this article in response to a referendum proposed at the Student Government General Assembly on April 27 regarding the policy-making abilities ...

We write this article in response to a referendum proposed at the Student Government General Assembly on April 27 regarding the policy-making abilities of Hall Council. Our joint experience in Hall Council and Student Government gives us insight into their respective scopes and roles in shared governance. We believe that it is important to establish the principles and functions of both organisations in light of the upcoming referendum
Defining scope
Student Government was founded on the basis of providing a voice for the NYU Abu Dhabi student body to represent its best interests amidst our melting pot of differences. Article One of the Student Constitution, which details its collective mission, states that “[Student Government] promotes the general welfare of the student body, pledging to remain transparent and accessible to all students.” Over time, we have witnessed Student Government grow from a purely representational body into one that facilitates ideas and empowers students to achieve their collective goals. This evolving role is what makes our Student Government so unique, a celebration of individual passions through collective support.
Student Government and Hall Council both seek to better the lives of students, but the scope of students they serve is different.
The mission statement of Hall Council addresses the distinct needs of resident students, those enrolled and accommodated through on-campus housing, within their residences. In consideration of the multiple halls on the Saadiyat Campus, these needs will be specialized and differentiated from that of a larger student body represented by Student Government. Hall Council seeks to serve these needs through its four committees — Advocacy, Events, Recognition and Policy — that collectively implement community development and social programs, fostering an ideal residential living experience.
Constitutional interpretation
Both Student Government and Hall Council aspire to different goals but are united under the shared mission of improving and sustaining student life. The former is an all-encompassing student governance structure dealing with issues, bodies and motions both across NYU’s global network and within our NYUAD community, including but not limited to Student Interest Groups and their budgeting, the Global Student Council, academic policy recommendations, committee appointments and structures, the International Ambassadors Program, Global Education policy recommendations and Athletics policy recommendations.
Because of its breadth of scope, Student Government is a popular framework for many students who wish to voice their opinions to the administration and bodies outside of the University. As student leaders whose priority is the pursuit of academic excellence, even the immense and expanding role that Student Government plays in our evolving institution must allow for other bodies to facilitate student leadership in other areas. The current Student Government administration undertook the vision of empowering students and, as a part of this, has recognised Hall Council as a legitimate policy-recommending and program-implementing body.
The Student Constitution clarifies under Article IV, Section G, "Class Representatives communicate with Resident Assistants, Campus Life and Student Life Offices in order to address residential concerns.” The Constitution itself only calls for an official form of communication with the three aforementioned parties and makes no mention of a unified governance structure; instead, Student Government and Hall Council are connected in shared governance through communication facilitated by Class Representatives.
The Constitution is a guiding document, written with sustainability at the forefront and maintaining accurate representation as a priority. Student Government is committed to upholding Constitutional precedent; changes are made by due process therein. This due process was lacking in the push for a referendum on the independent status of Hall Council. Though the General Assembly was well-attended when this referendum was proposed, thorough and knowledgeable debate with all parties aware of the current scope and role of Hall Council was missing.
Hall Council and Residential Education: Facilitating the opinions of students in residence
Hall Council communicates student concerns and opinions to Residential Education. Floor-by-floor representatives ensure that a large swathe of student opinions are expressed. Floor representatives are chosen by their peers to express concerns unique to their living environment. In addition to this level of representation, any student resident at NYUAD is welcome to attend and vote at Hall Council meetings.
Student residents have frequently raised policy concerns to Hall Council, through which Residential Education engages in a revision thereof. One example is the guest policy. Hall Council responded to student residents’ concerns at meetings that the guest policy in question was unfair and submitted a recommendation for its revision based on feedback. Students recognize the symbiotic, free-flowing and efficient relationship between Hall Council and Residential Education and have utilised it to have their views on this policy heard.
In addition to consulting with Hall Council, Residential Education has made a point of submitting policy changes to the Student Government Student Life Policy Committee. During the Reynolds administration, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education, Dr. Ken Grcich submitted revisions to both the guest and signage on Saadiyat policies to the committee for review. As it stands, Residential Education already seeks comment on policy from multiple forums, including Student Government.
The hosting of the Town Hall regarding Saadiyat residences is another example of how Hall Council facilitates the expression of a wide variety of opinions. This Town Hall, pushed for and facilitated by Hall Council, not only ensured prompt announcement of room selection processes but more importantly allowed students to directly engage with Residential Education. Concerns raised at this meeting, including the allocation of student spaces and student room appliances on Saadiyat, are now being pursued by Residential Education.
Having established the scope, Constitutional interpretation and policy case studies of Hall Council, we believe it is necessary to close with a reminder of the dialogue to which we ought to aspire. The discussions revolving around the referendum before, during and after the General Assembly on April 27 were fraught with miscommunication and assumptions. The brief debate resulted in tensions running high and emotions welling up, creating an environment not conducive to the constructive and collaborative spirit of the General Assembly.
Having independent Student Government and Hall Council structures is not uncommon at other universities around the world. Unique to our institution is the opportunity to develop an innovative relationship between these bodies that reflects our college experience. Between now and the future, we implore you to consider our ideas and engage with us in thoughtful conversation.
Student Government and Hall Council are both empowered to serve the student body, but in different capacities. Conflating their respective mechanisms does not do justice to the roles they serve in our community, nor does it maximize our collective ability to address a plethora of student concerns. In order to facilitate our growth, we must respect their establishment as independent bodies united under the shared mission of improving student life.
Laura Evans is Hall Council President and Benjamin Jance IV was Spring 2014 Officer of External Affairs for Student Government. The latter also served as Director of Training and Development for the Senior House on Inter-Residence Hall Council at NYU New York.
Benjamin Jance IV and Laura Evans are contributing writers. Email them at
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