Vice versa

The managing board endorses Ungrady, Ross for Student Council vice-president positions


The impulse to stereotype is sometimes an unfortunate byproduct of the desire to understand. We’ve been rolling out endorsements all week, and in our efforts to vet candidates we’ve drawn some categorizations. The Honor Committee hopefuls were strangely polished. The Student Council College representative candidates were strangely absent — some of them, anyway. But the students running for Council’s vice-president positions do not fall into a type. The candidates for vice president for administration and vice president for organizations hailed from a range of backgrounds, extracurricular and otherwise, and presented a variety of views. The refreshing heterogeneity of the vice-presidential races is a healthy sign for the next term of Council leadership. Though Council’s presidential race is, to put it lightly, not too competitive, in the deputy races students have an abundance of choice.

Five students are running for vice president for administration. Some are Council outsiders with fresh ideas and contagious energy. Others are Council veterans with the institutional knowledge to succeed in the vice president for administration role, which focuses on Council’s internal management and operations. Only one candidate has both the bold vision and the Council know-how to excel in the position: third-year College student Annie Ungrady.

Ungrady said she was unsure for a while if she wanted to run. Perhaps her initial hesitation can be explained by the fact that among the candidates, Ungrady has the best grasp on what the position entails. Much of what the vice president for administration does is far from glamorous: it’s less blustery oratory and more creating Google docs and booking rooms in Newcomb Hall. But Council, given its size and the scope of its responsibility to students, would buckle without well-organized leadership. Ungrady has honed her organizational skills as the co-chair of Council’s Public Service Committee. She wants to tighten Council’s attendance policies and increase cross-committee interaction. Her ideas show attention to detail: for example, to increase an internal understanding of what Council does, Ungrady plans to motivate people to slog through internal Council emails by offering rewards in exchange for responding to various memo items. Her platform also suggests her ability to think broadly: by improving Council’s efficiency she hopes to ramp up the body’s public-service efforts.

Though Ungrady has been on Council for nearly two years, she’s neither lapsed into cynicism nor idealized the body beyond its capacities. She approaches the organization with a critical stance grounded in experience. Her reservations about Council put her in an optimal position to streamline and improve the group’s internal structure. Her warmth and depth of insight will help her avoid deadlock as a member of Council’s executive board.

Both candidates running for vice president for organizations — third-year College student Neil Branch and second-year Engineering student Jalen Ross — would do a fine job. As an incumbent, Branch’s transition into a second term as VPO would be seamless. In the past year, he has built strong relationships with CIO leaders and administrators and effectively allocated more than $500,000 to various student groups.

But Ross’s fresh ideas and more aggressive commitment to transparency left us convinced he’s the better candidate. Ross, currently an Engineering School representative, aims to make Council’s appropriations publicly available online, along with general body votes. Ross noticed that nearly half of appropriations funding goes toward club sports, while schools such as Virginia Tech and William & Mary share costs for club sports with their athletic departments. Though we think it is unlikely Ross could sway the administration to cough up more support for club sports, he’s right to push for it in a bid to free up money to help other clubs thrive.

Ross suggested moving away from appropriations’ current percentage-based method to a point-based system. Council currently funds 100 percent of approved costs under $50, 22 percent under $300 and so on in a tiered system. Ross again looked to peer institutions for this idea. He suggested a merit-based point system that takes into account metrics including how active the organization is and national competition.

Ross’ merit-based point system is another idea worth exploring. Council’s executive board could benefit from his vision. Ross would inject new blood into an organization that, under incoming president third-year College student Eric McDaniel, is setting innovation as its aim.

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