Interview with Sydney Bradley, Student Council Vice President for Administration candidate

ns-sydneyportrait-CourtesyTyZirkle

Third-year College student Sydney Bradley won ___ percent of the University-wide vote for student council vice president of administration.

Courtesy Ty Zirkle

This is a transcript of an interview The Cavalier Daily conducted with Sydney Bradley, a third-year College student and candidate for Student Council Vice President for Administration. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Third-year Curry student Al Ahmed is also running for Student Council vice president for administration. You can find his interview here. Additionally, you can look here to see their answers side-by-side to The Cavalier Daily’s questions.

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 Vice President for Administration?

Sydney Bradley: The VPA role is inherently operating on internal affairs and having been on Student Council since my first year and a committee member and a committee chair as well as a College of Arts and Sciences representative, through which I chaired two ad hoc committees, I have seen the ins and outs of the operations of Student Council and how there’s been a lack of communication, coordination and community within Student Council. Also, seeing how we have failed to properly reach out to students across the University especially some of the communities that feel that we do not represent them and that they can’t be part of Student Council, whether that be through memberships or working with our policies. To be VPA means to understand Student Council but also to have an understanding of it and make sure it is working properly and doing its best. I have an ardent care for Student Council, but it is not blind love. I have been critical of it in the past. There is an inherent care that I have developed that I want to do it right and do it for the students.

CD: What experiences at U.Va. have informed your decision to run for Vice President for Administration?

SB: This past year I have been committee chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and through that we have been doing some really excellent work. We established the first academic research fair. Its goal is to increase visibility and accessibility for academic resources to new students including transfers, and making sure that is hosted each semester. We launched it last semester but have been working to reform our performance as it is our pilot. Through that leadership and working on a team, but also working with the presidential cabinet allowed me to see in a way that we lacked a cohesive identity as Student Council this past year. With that, especially [in] our Representative Body, we were butting heads between cabinets. Seeing that tension and being in several positions with past experience, I understand the perspectives of each area and I want to make sure that we actually are working together and being active instead of doing what we do on our own. I am close friends with Alex Cintron who is VPA now, and I have been acquainted with the job and its requirements, as well as what it can be.

CD: How do you see yourself working with the President and Vice President for Organizations?

SB: I think the most important part of this is that we have been friends since first year and that respect between us three allows up to criticize each other very openly and we understand the mission and commitment to Student Council and the student body. We have had varying experiences and have developed a true care for improving Student Council. A funny example is recently Alex and me were thinking about the best way to organize general body meetings. Even the way the chairs are aligned makes a difference. We want them to be open and also productive. Supporting him in his policies but also supporting the cabinet. 

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

SB: I want to see action. In the past year, Student Council has been given a unique position in responding to so many events that our student body and community, and our nation were affected by. Through that I think we have been trying to balance our role as an institution. Do we echo the administration of the University or do we say no, we need to advocate for students? And I think that we have tried to juggle those spheres of influence and through that let a lot of students down. Our job is to advocate for students, not to so easily echo the administration. Through that, action is going to be bringing students into meetings not as props but as people who belong in that room equally as I do. I am a student leader, but what does that mean? That doesn’t make me inherently more deserving to be heard. That is the first step to openness and being responsive to statements. Making sure we are working with students in organizations that can support us and we can support them to reform and make policy chains. 

CD: If elected, you would be succeeding Alex Cintron as VPA. Are there specific initiatives from his term that you would continue, and are there specific things that you would change? 

SB: One thing he has been great at is establishing a strong relationship with U.Va. Dining. He created the [Student Dining Advisory Board] and continuing those conversations between students and dining … Making sure the politics between U.Va. Dining and what they are serving, how they are treating their workers, that we are hearing them but also making sure that U.Va. Dining is reflecting what students want: healthy foods but also foods that taste good. An example is the Pav; what’s in it is really unhealthy, but is there a way to make sure they are suiting the needs of student affordability? Five Guys, for example, has an average meal price of $11, $10? That is not accessible or nutritious and the economics of time for that as well. It is our job as a committee to question what is best for that. Another thing Alex has been starting up is the community food bank. That is actually what I’ve been researching in one of my classes right now — food security and food deficits in Charlottesville. It is a located food pantry in Newcomb that is in the works that will house dry foods and necessities. The essence of food security is having access to meat and products that would otherwise expire. To answer to the needs of students I want to expand the food bank to include resources from the Charlottesville community using the Local Food Hub, which supports our local farmers and would be healthy options. I would also expand the location to be possibly closer to the Madison House area. With Madison House we could answer the needs of students and the community only a University transit ride away.

CD: The Vice President for Administration oversees the council’s management and operations including finances, property, information technology, communications, publicity and services. How do you plan to organize these responsibilities? What are some of your specific plans for the position if elected?

SB: For membership, we have a membership chair that has their own cohort of people who work with them. But another thing we are trying to add is a recruitment chair to be involved temporarily and work on recruitment … and make sure we have people beyond dorms and dorm talks, but also going into organizations like the Transfer Advisory Board to make sure we are getting transfer students involved because their voices are really not heard enough. Going to minority organizations and CIOs and saying that in the past we have not been, but are going to be there and get them more involved. For budgeting, we have [the] CFO. My work will be changing and a little different from Alex’s because I see myself the stresses of the budget and working with committee chairs to develop those budgets and the broader picture of Student Council, because once we get into the budget process, that’s when it all gets messy. There have been extremely unexpected arguments about small, minute details on a budget. So making sure that chairs and reps are communicating and running properly. For technology right now we are using Slack … You can build a community within that and add people to it easily. It is creative, colorful and little details exist that we don’t even know how to use. Going forward we will be training chairs and members more. We can make polls and we want to develop better usage of the technology so we are more responsive and communicative and redevelop the website, linking out to proper resources.

CD: With regards to publicity and communications, how do you hope to expand PR efforts of Student Council and engage with the University community including students, faculty and alumni?

SB: The Director of University Relations is actually under my control as well, and so is marketing and communications. I want that to evolve … reaching out to more students to be on that committee. For the social media part of PR, I do want to be more active and do things right away, like posting the [Board of Visitor student member] applications. We posted them the night before they were due this year, I believe, and so making sure when there are opportunities for students we are sharing them immediately — to get rid of any barriers for all students. I currently am on a Faculty Senate committee so I have developed relationships with administrative officers, but also just faculty members. I’m not sure how we can improve PR among them but I think one thing is making sure we are in those meetings and actively communicating with them. Most radical change happens when faculty and students are aligned and furthermore when faculty and administration are aligned. With alumni we can go far. For alumni, I think The Cavalier Daily actually has a lot of recent alumni, but seeing that there is a consistent relationship with U.Va. media to reach out and inform them. We could increase our Alumni Association communication and there are foundations like the College Foundation and McIntire Foundation with alumni who actively engage in policies, so reaching out to them and maybe presenting to them.

CD: Do you believe Student Council had an effective response to the events of Aug. 11 and 12?

SB: I don’t think Student Council prepared for this, no one prepared for this. No one expected it, except that the historical context of Charlottesville might show that we should have. That being said, we should have signed onto the demands immediately. Although the Executive Board may have questioned their position in representing all students, I personally do think that when we were given the task to support the communities that were affected by the white supremacists marching on the Lawn and we didn’t immediately, that wasn’t okay. We hosted a general body meeting in which the BSA presented the demands and talked about them, and students shared concerns and feelings, and it got wild. There were hurtful things said, blatantly racist things said. At times the issue of free speech was questioned. When students in the room are hurt directly you have to shut it down, is my personal belief. As a student elected by the full student body, I cannot stand for that. I think that ... we had failed in that one particular moment in letting all students speak but that crossed a line. We need to be more responsive and listen going forward, but what do we need to do now? There are a lot of demands still not addressed, like No. 5 with the curriculum and [No. 9 about] faculty diversity. We need to do more. 

CD: How do you plan to use information technology or expand on existing platforms?

SB: I think an interesting way to go about this would be to have chairs share what they are doing, whether on social media or on the website. Listing their policies or working on initiatives. I love when concerns come up like that. To promote what committees are doing but also bring it to students whether they are on the Council or not. There is also Speak Up U.Va. It could be a unique way through the internet to have concerns submitted. The way we used that when it first came out was that chairs would go through at each meeting and bring up the concern, a direct way to make sure they saw what students were worried about. I actually submitted several myself throughout my time at U.Va. — even as chair. 

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

SB: The way that the budget process works right now is that chairs design the budget and what is important and what they need. They are the experts in their field ideally and know what they need to properly execute their project initiatives. In the past there have been initiatives that the Representative Body has cut and that committee chairs then felt that they couldn’t advocate for their own policies in that moment of the legislative session. Making sure that one way to reform that would be developing better communication between chairs and reps and especially an example is the student arts community has a grant program that brings money in to students working on art projects and related to arts in general. A lot of time doing projects is completely inaccessible to low income students. Art supplies are ridiculously expensive and there is no rental system at U.Va. currently … Basically committee issues may cost a lot of money but in the long haul they do support students. That is an adequate but reasonable and also a great way to use the student activities fee to give back to students. Not spending it for our own committees but for the good of students. We can support them in excelling and that is one of the best ways of giving back. They can explore interests and delve into projects they want to achieve. We have these leadership binders. Do we need to spend a couple hundred dollars, maybe more, on printing out these? No, we do not. I understand the appeal of having paper in front of you but that was unsustainable. We have a sustainability committee and they opposed that. But also I did not agree with the printing of packets. I like the longevity of the physical object, but it was superfluous and didn’t really do our job in making sure it was benefitting all students. It can just be a PDF.

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