Former student president of Residence Hall Association accuses organization of corruption

The Residence Hall Association office is located in Whitney Residence Hall in East Campus. (Akshara Thejaswi/The Daily Campus)

Celena Stoia, former president of the Residence Hall Association during the 2015-2016 year, has made public her beliefs about "corruption" within the organization. Stoia, now a junior, said she believes she was elected as president only to enforce what the faculty advisors wanted within the organization.

“There was a lot of corruption –  they put me in place I believe to just be their puppet, since I was just a sophomore who didn’t know anything about the organization,” Stoia said. “But that’s not how I choose to lead.”

The organization has now changed its status from a Tier III organization, which Stoia believes gives students more power, to a university program, which Stoia believes gives the faculty more power.

According to RHA, this is not in an effort to give more power to the faculty but rather a previously-discussed decision.

In October 2015, Becca Herman, the coordinator of Triad Leadership Program, approached RHA to discuss whether being a Tier III was the best option for the organization, according to Kim Beardsley, assistant director of Residence Education.

Beardsley said that historically, the organization has gone back and forth with deciding to keep their previous Tier III title.

Tier III organizations are “the most visible, complex and active student organizations on campus,” according to the UConn Student Activities website. These organizations are funded primarily by student fees and they “represent major constituencies of the student body.”

The Student Activities website also states that student leaders “have significant responsibility for the management of their groups, the students they represent, and effective stewardship of the funds that come from their constituencies.”

There was a lot of corruption – they put me in place I believe to just be their puppet, since I was just a sophomore who didn’t know anything about the organization.
— Former student president, Celena Stoia

“(The faculty advisors) interviewed students instead of the students interviewing students and choosing them, and there were no students present in the hiring process,” Stoia said.

Three advisors made the decision of who would fill the executive board, and Stoia said that she believes that’s the only reason why she got the position.

“Honestly, no one would probably vote for a sophomore for a president of an organization (I knew) nothing about,” she said.

Stoia said that the year she was hired was the year RHA broke their Tier III contract and vetoed student votes. Because the organization was supposed to be student-led under Tier III rules, this was not appropriate behavior, said Stoia. She listed the decision of changing the organizations logo as an example.

“They wanted me to convince (the students) not to change (the logo), and I said, ‘I don’t really believe in that, I’m just going to put it to a vote.’”

The general board voted to change the logo, according to Stoia.

“I told (the faculty advisors) and they said ‘we’re really disappointed in you – that wasn’t the right decision, and we’re not going to let the logo change happen.’”

Stoia said that in 2015, RHA put the logo change to a vote with the general board before she was involved in the organization and the faculty advisors vetoed the vote.

“They put me in place, asked us to vote on it again… then vetoed it again,” she said.

After the organization realized that Stoia wasn’t who they wanted as student president, she said they started trying to put her out of office.

They printed photos of Stoia in social situations where there could have been alcohol, although there was no indication that she was drinking, according to Stoia.

“They sent that to their Board of Directors… I had to have a sit down with their advisor,” Stoia said. “I did have a write up because my roommates had alcohol in the room, and I told them it didn’t involve me, but they didn’t believe me.”

Stoia said that the faculty advisors then had a student who they wished to take her place find more photos of her through her boyfriend’s Instagram and her own Facebook page.

“That’s when I quit, because I thought it was such a toxic work environment,” she said. “That was the last straw for me.”

Stoia also said that RHA threatened to fine her if she missed a “pop-up” meeting for work or sorority events. Because there is a possibility of being fined for missing sorority meetings, Stoia said they told her they would act in the same way if she was not present for RHA events.

“This put me in hard position – I had to choose RHA over work, and I’m paying to put myself through college,” Stoia said.

When asked about whether or not students have a voice within RHA, Assistant Director of Residence Education Kim Beardsley said she definitely believes they do.

“I feel that students do have a voice, even in the process of switching to a university program, if (the students) told us no, we wouldn’t have switched,” Beardsley said.

Stoia said that before the switch, RHA presented “biased material” to students on the board about why the organization should not remain a Tier III.

“(The faculty advisors) were trying to get more power over our organization… They promised us that we’d have autonomy if it was a university program, but it was obvious that we weren’t going to.”

The students in the organization voted, and the decision to move to a university program won unanimously, according to both Stoia and Beardsley.

When asked about Stoia’s term of leadership, Beardsley said that she believes that Stoia brought the organization forward.

“I thought that she did a great job,” Beardsley said.


Megan Krementowski is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at megan.krementowski@uconn.edu.