Editorial: Our take on RHA’s winter clothing program

Even by Cleveland’s standards, this winter’s weather has been unstable. The temperature reached above 60 degrees this week, effectively melting the snow that covered campus in the previous days. This also means everyone needs to wear drastically different clothing over the same week. That can quickly get expensive.

In order to help students who cannot afford winter clothing, the Residence Hall Association (RHA) has launched the Winter Clothing Rental initiative. As far as we could find, no similar programs have been implemented before at Case Western Reserve University or any of the university’s peer institutions.

RHA usually works on issues directly involving student housing; for them, this program is a jump to a whole new way of helping students. The initiative speaks to their commitment to expanding and becoming more active in helping and advocating for all students.

RHA worked with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and University Diversity Collaborative to ensure that the program supports as much of campus as possible. Coats are available in all sizes, along with hats and gloves. All the available clothing for rent is unisex.

The program is designed to be specifically aware of and designed to benefit low-income students. Renters don’t have to pay for damages to the clothing, but are encouraged to pay if they can afford it. This means that some borrowers can help pay into the system to make sure everyone, irrelevant of economic background, benefits from the clothing.

Respecting student privacy is a key component of the Winter Clothing Rental program. The process allows for students to receive their clothes in a discreet manner. Requests for clothing can be completed through a form on OrgSync. After submitting the request, students can pick up their clothing in an unmarked box at Wade or Fribley Commons. In a further step to maintain students’ privacy, the form does not ask about the submitter’s economic situation.

The rented clothes don’t need to be returned until May 1. (It would be unrealistic to expect a student to use the clothes until May, but it’s always a good idea to take the unpredictability of the Cleveland winter as seriously as possible.)

Students from Midwestern states may be accustomed to the region’s unique winter, but many join CWRU from climates that are very different. This includes places where it doesn’t snow. It also helps students travel lightly, something that is especially helpful for international students. For students whose winter wardrobe may have been hampered by the bizarre weather patterns, the program can provide warm clothes in place of any left at home.

With any good initiative comes visibility. Students need to be made aware of the program for it to be put to its full use. Currently, flyers announcing the initiative hang in most residential common spaces.

The Winter Clothing Rental program is just one of the many steps that student-led organizations are taking. By launching a program that seeks to help without a financial incentive, RHA is demonstrating the value of active organizations on campus.