Interview with Jalon Daniels, Student Council presidential candidate

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Jalon Daniels is a first-year College student.

Courtesy Hunter Sheldon

This is a transcript of an interview The Cavalier Daily conducted with Jalon Daniels, a first-year College student and candidate for Student Council president. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Third-year College students Alex Cintron and Eddie Lin are also running for Student Council president. You can find their interviews here and here, respectively. Additionally, you can look here to see their answers side-by-side to The Cavalier Daily’s questions.

The Cavalier Daily will hold a forum with the candidates Monday evening from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Nau Hall 101. Students can submit questions for the candidates via this Google Form. The event is open to students and will also be live-streamed on The Cavalier Daily’s Facebook page.

Voting begins Feb. 21 and will end Feb. 23. Students can vote at www.uvavote.com.

The Cavalier Daily: Why do you want to be Student Council president?

Jalon Daniels: I want to be Student Council president because I believe that I can offer the Student Council and the student body an alternative perspective and approach to ... many key issues. And I also think that as I have the necessary skills. And being an effective leader, I think that my policies that I have [in my] platform are realistic … [and] will in fact improve the quality of life for University of Virginia students and will allow the Student Council to have a larger impact on the community outside of U.Va. and within U.Va.

CD: What experiences at U.Va. have informed your decision to run for president, and how have these experiences prepared you to lead Student Council?

JD: I believe that being a part of a very stringent [group] of organizations at U.Va. have allowed me to understand the need for policies, understand the need for rules. I was part of the University Judiciary Committee where I served as a judge for first years, and that essentially entails me looking at cases where first-years were found to be negligent in adhering to the standards of conduct and working with the administration of our school to make sure that not only people who are given proper sanctions for their misconduct, but also that they are educated as to why the behavior is unacceptable or not in accordance [with] the standards of conduct. 

I also, this year, am working for the educational outreach of the Honor Committee as a representative for the dorm. As to … the system we have as a whole, I think that educating the general public and a large amount of people around the dorm organization has also allowed me to showcase my knowledge of institutions and the need for rules. I also have the opportunity to be involved in Best Buddies as the “Computer” Buddy. And Best Buddies is a national program and organization that is aimed [at] helping or just interacting [with] children and young adults or just adults in general with intellectual or physical disabilities. And I also have the opportunity to be involved in lots of these little ensembles. I’m in an a capella group, the Hullabahoos, [and] I had the opportunity to be in the University of Virginia Marching Band, currently I’m in the wind ensemble, [and] the University Singers. And I also had the opportunity, this past semester, to be one of the representatives in helping educate the public on Parkinson’s Disease. And so that diversifying my community in already having been leading and dealing with other members of Virginia institutions and also just my ability to diversify myself, different aspects have allowed me to [be] qualified [for these] positions because it tells that I know how to reach out to other people, how to interact with people that are not like them, and to be sympathetic of all peoples, all people and our desires, what they think we should do.

CD: If elected, you would be succeeding Sarah Kenny as Student Council president. Are there specific initiatives from her term that you would continue, and are there specific things that you would change?

JB: I have enormous respect for Sarah Kenny … One of the things I want to build upon is the bill that she sponsored along with a Commerce representative Evelyn Wang, to support maintaining the first-year book. I think that this book should be extended to not just first-years, but second-years, third-years and fourth-years … If I were to be elected, I will be advocating for increased representation of transfer students in every sector of the U.Va. community. I think that a book, especially the first-year book, for transfer students, would allow transfer students to learn about Student Council … Our goal is to help them and make sure they assimilate to University culture. I also would build upon the U.Va. Student Community Food Bank. I think that the initiative should be more so of a collaborative effort between the Madison House and the Student Council … Another thing that I’ll improve upon is the use of the theatrics in the public sphere. And that’s very controversial — bodies of the Student Council must not rely on symbolism and theatrics when dealing with events that shape our community. I think that Student Council must … demand that they have a presence, demand that they be able to help the community as a whole, not just stand behind a podium and make videos. I think that that is very theatrical … I don’t think it’s organic, it’s not authentic and I think it’s a very, very, very artificial way to deal with the problems. 

CD: What do you think of Student Council’s response to the white nationalist demonstrations of Aug. 11 and 12? Is there anything you would have done differently? What did you think of the University administration’s response?

JD: I think that the Student Council did what was deemed necessary by the general public. They denounced the white nationalists, they had, they communicated a platform of equality and community to the world, and that was very much necessary in the wake of such tragic and horrifying events. And I think the Student Council had to go beyond just making statements, I think that one way the Student Council could have remedied the situation just a little better is by going to school and talking to students around the Charlottesville, Albemarle, and just telling students that the Student Council is advocating for the safety of all students, and that they do not tolerate and the University of Virginia does not tolerate the actions that took place on Aug. 11 and 12. I think that these events, in the wake of what happened a couple months later with tuition increases, will and had calls for a drop in the representation of minority students in the future. And I think that the Student Council has the necessary means to have the charge to deal with the situation more so from a community standpoint. I know that the current VPA [Alex Cintron] reached out to the University Police Department and asked what they could do, but there comes a point where you can’t just sit behind a computer and ask what you can do, but do what is necessary, and what was necessary is them reaching out to the community and offering help in any way they could. 

CD: Last fall, Student Council endorsed the list of demands created by the Black Student Alliance and other student groups. Which of the BSA demands do you find has gone most unaddressed, and how would you work to address it? 

JD: So, I think that one way for the Student Council to very truly endorse the BSA demands is to reach out to the community and see how the community reacts to the demands. I think that, when we look at the demands, I think demand one is removal of the Confederate plaques on the Rotunda, I think that’s appropriate. I think that the Student Council should always advocate for the removal of certain signs of hatred. I think that that is the relevant authority of the Student Council. I think that the Lawn being declared a residential space was necessary.  And to also ensure in the future that there’s proper legal actions taken upon those who defile the Lawn and do what they did on Aug. 11 and 12. I think that Student Council must be aware of their relevant authority. I think that some things, such as hiring connect staff to make its worth proportional to the number of students. I think that’s a great idea, in theory — but personally, I think that the lack of minority student representation stems from a larger issue, and more so a larger issue in general, and as an institution. I think that one way that the Student Council can change and that will help these demands go forth is just by advocating that the University of Virginia to pay all employees a living wage. An evaluation of black and Hispanic lives is very structural in the fact that the University of Virginia does not pay a living wage, just showcases how we deny groups of people access to lots of good, and I think that, we must advocate for that, and so that’s one way that the Student Council can just make sure that the BSA [demands] are valid.

CD: If another event similar to the Unite the Right rally were to occur, how do you think you would prepare for and respond to it as Student Council president?

JD: I think that there should be a plan that’ll protect the students, protect the community, and the University as a whole. I think that one way … that there could be improvement to what occurred Aug. 11 and 12 is the creation of a board of students that work with the University Police Department about, I think, inefficiencies in the police department, the lack of transparency and the delay in communication. I think that communication is key in protecting students and protecting our University through the University Police Department. I think that this potential board of students is not something that is too outlandish, not realistic or idealistic — many universities already have board of students that have been charged with the goal that University Police Department, as a representative of the school, are maintaining the true ethics of the job and making sure that our community is safe. So I think that enhancement, I think that University Police Department is necessary and key. I also think that the Student Council must advocate for more involvement in the community as a whole. I know that if I were elected one way I would like to reach out is to endorse and not just say “endorsed,” but support groups of students that want to protest. I think the Student Council must be vocal and they must support people who to protest inequality and hate. 

CD: If elected, what would be your top priority, and how you would go about realistically addressing it?

JD: I think I would advocate for more authentic and organic approach in dealing with these problems. I think the Student Council must move away from being a revelatory agent in regards to promising equity or inclusion and move more so into being the open one in communication between smaller groups that are punished instead or still in need. And work more so in helping those small CIOs and organizations have access to upper deck, [U.Va. Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer] Patricia Lampkin and all these other vice presidents. I think that Student Council has the authority, has the necessary influence to make sure that the point of these smaller CIOs that are principle to helping minority students. The Student Council has the ability to make their voices more so heard ... I think that the Student Council must not try to interfere with the work of these organizations or try to change [them], but rather just make sure that their voices will be heard … [Also] that they advocate for the protection of AccessUVA funding and support groups….  I think that’ll be the main thing that I’ll be doing … dealing with problems with diversity. 

CD: What do you think the relationship should look like between the Student Council president and the University’s administration? In what ways do you think the administration helps and hinders Student Council?

JD: I think that the Student Council president must have a presence in many of the proceedings in the administration, because the Student Council president’s position is premised on being a servant for the student body as a whole, and I think that a lack of presence of the Student Council president or even regular members just showcases the lack of transparency the University has in regards to do with the the needs and desires of the students. I think that one way the administration helps Student Council is that many chief officers are open to meeting with executive members and representatives of Student Council which I think showcases a bit of humility of behalf of those administrators, and I think it showcases that fact the degree and the true power of student governance, and the true effectiveness of student governance ... I think that the Student Council, as I said earlier, has opened the line of communication between CIOs and other administration. I think the Student Council must not approach the administration just alone as primary agents of the student body. I think they must do so in conjunction with organizations of people that have ideas, who have goals.

CD: Students will be voting on a referendum to decide whether to grant the president veto power over the Representative Body, although this veto could be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the representatives. Do you support creating a presidential veto power, why or why not? What do you think the relationship should look like between the Student Council president and Representative Body? 

JD: For summary right now, I still do not have a clear answer of what I’ll vote for in this referendum. My thought process is right now is that I think that because the Student Council president is a representative elected by the students as a whole, that the Student Council should be listening to the needs and ideas of the student body as a whole, and any pride therein … I’m describing that the Student Council to find a way to compromise and a way to work through the differences in the ways that they are approaching a problem. The student body and the Student Council president ... the presidential election and the representative election is not an election based on party, there’s not a party system at all, it’s a free for all. Any student that goes up to adequately represent the student body has the opportunity to run for office, and any student can be elected. I think that being said, I think all students should have a say in the representative process and the legislative process of the Student Council. I do not, as of right now I do not agree with the referendum of the president being able to be override the authority of the representative body. I think the president should be mature and knowledgeable enough to approach and communicate with the members of the representative body. And any time a bill passes by the majority of the representatives, usually all of their actions, court reporting to deciding as a whole, I think that’s indicative of maybe a large idea. I don’t think the Student Council president should have the authority to override representative legislation.

CD: What should the relationship look like between the Student Council president and the vice presidents for administration and organizations?

JD: … It’s important, it’s imperative that the vice president for an organization, vice president for administration, work in conjunction with the president and that they are on the same page as to the way they approach their ventures, the way they talk about certain topics ... I think the necessity for there not to be strife happening, a necessity for confusion between their goals. I think that one way this can be seen is that they have their own executive meeting, I think that’s a necessity for the Student Council president to make time for the vice presidents for organization and for administration. I think that there should also be, I think that the president should be aware of the vice president’s abilities and also make sure they have the proper powers and are exercising their powers with maturity. I have some ideas as to enhancing the CIO platforms and things like that. And I think that it’s imperative that, if I were to be elected, I work alongside the Vice President of Organizations, and let him have, at the end of the day, the opportunity to exercise his power, and showcase his ability through it. … then it’s important that [vice presidents] be given responsibilities and be given a chance to exercise the power and do what the student body voted for them to do. And so, all in all, I think that there should be evident cohesion of the three roles and the public should be able to perceive that. 

CD: Numerous endorsing student organizations have signed on to a petition to only endorse candidates who spend within a set amount. For president, this amount is $250. Are you committed to staying within this spending cap? 

JD: I am committed to staying within the boundaries that are outlined in the petition.In fact I don’t plan on even spending half of that … I think that if there was not this petition, there would be this overwhelming priority for me to keep up with other people in regards to campaign spending and getting my voice across. I think this petition allows for more of a level playing field.

CD: And more generally, what do you think of the role that spending plays in student elections, and is there anything you think should be done by the administration, the University Board of Elections, or some other body of the University to limit the amounts spent on elections?

JD: My viewpoint as to student spending in student elections is [that] while I do believe that everyone’s ability to pursue student elections as they will… I think the fact that I’m able to run, the fact that I was offered grants, and the fact that I do have those payments within those boundaries allows me to be a part of the democratic process…. Administration, as a whole, all that is asked is that if there is no cap on campaign spending, there is a greater percentage of students in regards to being a part of the democratic process, and I think that it will just showcase different, diverse representation in Student Council …  I’d extend certain regulations that are occurring right now when wanting to run for president, it would be given, I think, $150 or maybe $100 of a campaign grant. The problem with the petition is that the president has up to $250 to spend. I think that maybe the University Board of Elections should offer pending grants that’s yours, for the most part, a potential petition that could be so that the administration must endorse this petition and position on campaign spending. 

CD: What is one Council expenditure you think is important and what is one that concerns you?

JD: So one thing that concerns me is the Student Council’s viewpoint for giving out water bottles for football games when it’s too hot out. I think while it’s notable how … can be beneficial, I think it also should be investigated a bit more. I also think that now there should be more investigation as to the spending to CIOs. I think there should be a set group of people that maybe help the student body elect to have the responsibility of allocating funds. Student Council and the Vice President of Organizations is given approximately almost a million dollars to the student activities fee, and I think that the setup, the Vice President of Organizations and some other members of Council deciding who determines or decides expenditures in regards to that round of Student Council, I think the student body should elect someone who — not only the Vice President of Organizations — but also specific representatives to make sure it is a little more representative of the student body as a whole. One Council expenditure that concerns me is the expenditures in regards to the Vice President of Organization's ability to determine funds to the CIOs, I think there should be more investigating into the people deciding the allocation of funds. But yeah, that is one thing that intrigues me.

CD: Students have expressed concerns about safety at the University this past semester, particularly with regards to U.Va.’s community alerts system and the lack of alerts for incidents like white nationalists returning in October and a reported firearm incident at Boylan this semester. However, U.Va. seems limited in what it can do. What do you see as the role of Student Council in this conversation, and are there any specific safety-related initiatives you think Student Council should undertake?

JD: Initially when I considered running for office, the only platform issues I had were in regards to safety, so I’m so thankful that you asked that question. Like I said earlier, I think that there should be investigation as to counseling to the University Police Department. I think that the anger that people have when the University and the community that runs systems is the fact that alerts are not given timely, and the fact that alerts aren’t communicated transparently enough. I think there’s a need for a greater conversation by the student body to counsel the University Police Department and the University administration to the transparency, the efficiency of the University Police Department … I think that it’s necessary that the students as a whole, the Student Council as a whole, help the student body understand the necessity of being educated in regards to this issue … I think there should be a greater conversation with students in collecting news outlets that could possibly offer them information … I was thinking maybe the creation of an app that allows for all community [events] or that come on any news platform, CNN, NBC, etc … [to] be accessible, you’d just have to click on it to stay with it and not rely on the community alert system through the texts or through email … 

Another thing … is enhancement to the Safe Ride system. I think that there should be … greater efficiency, greater availability in regards to the Safe Ride system … I think the Student Council must work directly with Rebecca White, the director of Parking and Transportation, … as to ways to decrease the waiting time that students wait on the weekends and some nights … 25 percent of the students that use Safe Ride are athletes in the morning who need to go to practice … [maybe] the athletics department [could] take on operating costs and pay a percentage … So I think that for a big part of my initiative I’d really like to research that more, really work with a group of students along with Rebecca White … and maybe even reach out to Athletics … I know that Safe Ride program has many other universities in the need of being restructured, and there’s more resources being put into that program … There should be [advocacy] at the University of Virginia for more resources to be put into the Safe Ride program.

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