Student Council passes bill requiring representatives to host office hours

Implementation of new safety app also discussed

ns-StudCo-SSpreen

Taylor Overton, a second-year College student and co-chair of the Safety & Wellness Committee, said the body was in the preliminary stages of implementing the LiveSafe app. 

Sam Spreen | Cavalier Daily

Student Council passed a bill Tuesday to require its representatives to host office hours once a week.

Sponsored by first-year College student Avery Gagne and third-year College student Chi Chan, the bill was previously discussed during Student Council’s general body meeting Feb. 6. However, it was tabled due to concerns about implementation and enforcement in graduate schools. 

The bill requires each representative to hold at least one office hour per week. Representatives are not required to hold their office hours at the same time and location each week, though consistent scheduling is recommended by the general body.

“This institutes just one hour per week,” Gagne said at the previous general body meeting. “That would be just one hour where you’re available to just talk with a constituent who wants to talk with you about an issue … This is just to increase communication between us, the representative body, and the students we’re representing.” 

The bill passed with support from all representatives present at the meeting, with the exception of three abstentions. 

Student Council also further discussed the implementation and development of the LiveSafe app, a safety app that allows for alerts to be issued to individuals in specific locations affected by an incident through a built-in geofencing feature. The LiveSafe app was discussed at a meeting earlier this semester as a potential solution to student concerns regarding the University’s alert system following a reported  firearm incident at Boylan Heights on the Corner

The incident was not reported to the student body via the University’s alert system due to restrictions imposed by the Clery Act. The current University alert system is subject to the Clery Act, which limits universities and colleges to notifying students of an incident only when it occurs on university-owned-and-operated properties. 

The use of the LiveSafe app was first considered by Student Council’s Committee on Safety and Wellness in cooperation with the University Police Department and the Office for Safety and Emergency Preparedness in the wake of the deadly events of Aug. 11 and 12 in Charlottesville. The committee was formed after students criticized the University for failing to utilize its alert system to notify students of the violence. 

Taylor Overton, a second-year College student and co-chair of the Safety & Wellness Committee, said the body was in the preliminary stages of implementing the app. 

According to Overton, the app would enable the University to issue alerts without being limited by the Clery Act because LiveSafe is a third-party program independent of U.Va.

“Right now we are making sure the app can connect to the different venues we have already online, just making sure that it works,” Overton said. 

While the app remains in the development stage, Overton said there is a need for student involvement in the process to ensure the app’s effectiveness for all users. 

According to Overton, the University will host a meeting later this semester with representatives from LiveSafe to provide students and faculty with information on the app and how it will function around Grounds. 

“We want to make sure students are involved in all aspects of this app, especially at the beginning stages,” Overton said. “That way we don’t get the app and say ‘this doesn’t work [or] this doesn’t come into account. Specifically with the designing, that’s going to be one aspect the students are going to be heavily encouraged to get involved.”

“[The meeting] will specifically be LiveSafe coming and telling us what is LiveSafe going to look like here at U.Va.,” Overton added. 

According to Overton, the LiveSafe app is expected to undergo a soft launch in early April to correct bugs and ensure functionality prior to its official implementation. 

Student Council also unanimously passed a bill with three abstentions to approve the appointment of fourth-year College student Victoria Kasonde to be co-chair of the Outreach Committee. Kasonde was previously the co-chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee. 

According to the Student Council website, the goal of the Outreach Committee is “teaching U.Va. students about what Student Council does and how it can help them solve problems and be leaders within the community.” 

related stories