Council swears in Ross, Miller, West
Incoming president says goals include internal reforms, external outreach
“The state of the electoral system is something of a mandate in and of itself,” incoming Student Council Pres. Ross said. “Eighty percent of students…didn’t feel engaged enough to participate in that electoral part of student governance.”
Student Council President Jalen Ross, a third-year Engineering student, alongside Vice-President for Administration Sky Miller, a third-year College student, and Vice-President for Organizations Kyle West, a second-year Commerce student, were sworn in Thursday. The ceremony took place in the Dome Room of the Rotunda.
Ross said Council hoped to increase outreach externally, a reaction to student apathy at the polls in the most recent University Board of Elections election, and improve internal efficiency.
“The state of the electoral system is something of a mandate in and of itself,” Ross said. “Eighty percent of students … didn’t feel engaged enough to participate in that electoral part of student governance.”
Outgoing Student Council President Eric McDaniel, a fourth-year College student, attributed the low turnout rates and uncontested elections to student involvement as leaders in other clubs around Grounds.
“A single student can no longer adequately represent all of the students we contain,” McDaniel said. “We have well over 700 CIOs filled with students doing things they are passionate about. … For self-governance to continue, all we need [is] a passionate and engaged [group of students] standing up for what they [love] most.”
Ross and incoming Representative Body Chair Abraham Axler, a first-year College student, said Council was working to send Council representatives to more student events. Both Ross and Axler won their positions in uncontested elections — Ross in a student-wide race, Axler in a race within Council.
“We’ve done a good job in staying active, but we’ve done a poor job in maintaining relationships,” Ross said. “We can’t advocate for student needs that we don’t know about. … To the end of building relationships, that sort of spawns that advocacy and action.”
Axler said he had a personal incentive as a younger Council leader to do a good job, since he will face voters next year.
“[We plan on] going to students and explaining to them what StudCo is and why StudCo cares,” Axler said. “StudCo’s primary role is to address student concern.”
Miller and incoming Chief of Cabinet Carey Stewart, a third-year College student, said Council was focusing on internal accountability and collaboration.
“Trello is kind of going to be my biggest mechanism for the non-in-person communication [to] see what initiatives we are working on as a Council,” Miller said, discussing the online organization tool Student Council recently embraced.
Second-year Commerce student Faith Lyons will join Stewart, Ross, Miller and West on the executive committee as director of university relations, along with second-year Engineering students Niti Paudyal, as chief financial officer, and Adam Wulchin, as chief technology officer.
Stewart said collaboration between chairs will produce better programs and events for Council.
“I really want to enhance the chairs’ ability to work with each other across committees [and] just give each other feedback on what they’re working on,” Stewart said.
Miller said he wants to institute a bi-monthly review system for committee chairs and a system to monitor meeting attendance for committee members.
“I’m going to be working a lot with the chief of cabinet to very much reform the way we think about accountability,” Miller said. “We’re going to have a lot more relationships with chairs and various committees.”
Miller will also serve as Senior Resident for the Lawn as well as VPA, but said he has balanced his involvements in Residence Life and Student Council for three years and sees the two as his primary commitments.
“Over the last three years, my two big commitments has been Student Council and Residence Life,” Miller said. “I’ve invested so much every year in both of those.”
West said he hopes to reorganize the appropriations and CIO consultant committees he oversees.
“It’s a group of delegates that can help and advise me,” West said. “Long term, I’ll be spending the summer in Charlottesville trying to revamp the way we keep documentation for clubs.”
West said he wants to monitor club growth, spending and effectiveness, which will allow CIO consultants to provide better services. Ross said Council was working to reform the appropriations process, a longer-term goal West identified as well. West said the funding process should reward efficiency and giving back to the University community, rather than simply rewarding request size.
“As it stands, we are appropriating 20 percent of requests to us,” Ross said. “If you give everybody a fifth of what they want, you don’t give anyone [enough to do anything]. … When we’re sort of on the path to everyone getting 5 percent of everything they request, that’s not sustainable.”
McDaniel also took time during the ceremony to highlight the accomplishments of the outgoing executive committee. McDaniel combined meaningful stories with light-hearted descriptions, saying his tenure in Council had aged him.
“I could pass for 13 maybe 14 even now,” McDaniel said of himself, playing on his youthful appearance. “[Outing VPO Neil Branch] is quite possibly the strangest, most competent, most inscrutable [person] I know,” he added among his descriptions of the outgoing executive committee.
McDaniel ended his speech on a more philosophical note.
“Honor, here on Mr. Jefferson’s Grounds, should be the external manifestation of who you are,” McDaniel said.