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Student election results forecast change

What to expect from newly-elected student leaders in the 2015-16 term

The University Board of Elections announced the results of the Spring 2015 Election Friday. Newly-elected student leaders comment upon significant changes they hope to implement, as well as upon the campaigning process.

Results

Second-year College student Abraham Axler won the Student Council President seat with 2,654 votes, third-year Batten student Daria Winsky — who ran uncontested — won Student Council Vice President for Administration with 4,317 votes and second-year College student Emily Lodge won Student Council Vice President for Organizations with 2,635 votes.

“I can’t express my thanks for the support I received and I’m really beyond energized to get to work,” Axler said.

The new Second Year President and Vice President are first-year College students Malcolm Stewart and Pak-Hin Luu, respectively. The new Third Year President and Vice President are second-year College student Lital Firestone and second-year Engineering student Patrick Rice, respectively. The new Fourth Year President and Vice President are third-year College student Andrew Kwon and third-year Batten student Donald Fryar, respectively.

“Donald and I are very thankful and blessed for all of the support and help that we had this year during the election. We cannot thank everyone enough for their continuous and loyal support throughout the whole process,” Kwon said in an email.

Some of the races were particularly close, especially that of the position Third Year Vice President. Rice won the race for Third Year Class Vice President by one vote over his opponent, second-year Education student Joshua Leidy — the final tally was 672 votes to 671.

“That was very surprising to me,” Rice said. “I just couldn’t believe it was that evenly split. It really makes me think ‘hats off to my opponent’ [because] almost just as many people thought he was just as qualified a candidate.”

Rice attributed the victory to a focus on personal interaction as a part of his campaign. In a “get out the vote” effort he, and his running mate Firestone, went door to door in places heavily populated with second-years to meet students and encourage voting.

The Student Council undergraduate representatives are as follows: third-year Architecture student Camille Adkins, third-year College student Alexander Gregorio, third-year Engineering student Mary Catherine Hofer, third-year Engineering student Kaila Grenier, first-year Engineering student MacKenzie Hodgson, third-year Commerce student Shivin Agarwal, first-year College student Uhunoma Edamwen, first-year College student Erik Roberts, first-year College student Lucas Williams, third-year College student Leah Retta, first-year College student Cat Wyatt, first-year College student Elaine Koo, first-year College student Brett Curtis, first-year College student Jocelyn Huang and first-year College student Pak-Hin Luu.

The Judiciary Undergraduate Representatives are third-year Nursing student Ashley Munoz, second-year Batten student Jeremy Jones, third-year Engineering student Brittany Hungate, third-year Commerce student Miles Jackson, third-year Commerce student Brendan O’Hare, third-year College student Mackenzie Austin, third-year College student Catilin Cosby and third-year College student Zachary Peak.

The Honor Undergraduate Representatives are third-year Education student Jessica Drews, fourth-year Batten student Victoria Tran, fourth-year Batten student Matthew Comey, third-year Engineering student Katherine Kamis, third-year Engineering student Sarah Rogers, third-year Commerce student Faith Lyons, third-year Commerce student Avery Rasmussen, third-year College student Grace Muth, third-year College student Caroline Herre, third-year College student Emily Snow, third-year College student Martese Johnson and third-year College student Russell Bogue.

Potential changes

A common thread within the platforms of the various campaigns was that of transparency and student involvement in considering changes for the 2015-16 term.

Second-year College student Abraham Axler, the Student Council president-elect, said Student Council’s focus will likely be on projects that are currently being reviewed, such as improving the SafeRide program.

First-year College student Lucas Williams, a newly-elected Student Council College representative, said along with initiatives like expanding Aquatic and Fitness Center hours, he hopes to increase student awareness and interest in the workings of Student Council.

Second-year College student Emily Lodge, the newly-elected vice president of organizations, specified changes she hopes to see, such as creating awards for distinguished Contracted Independent Organizations, generating a wider selection of weekend programming, increasing general and infrastructural organization and creating a program to integrate service and scholarship.

First-year College student Uhunoma Edamwen, a newly-elected Student Council College representative, said he values outreach and wants to engage more students with Student Council. For example, he said he would like to improve the use of technology by updating the Student Council website with meeting notes, reforming SpeakUpUVa and utilizing the Facebook page.

Second-year College student Lital Firestone, the newly-elected Third-year Council president, said she hopes to implement a more comprehensive outreach program to help build a more diverse Class Council.

“I’m really excited to implement essentially a nomination concept for [Third Year] Council members to join our organization,” Firestone said. “What I’m going to do is send emails to a bunch of different multi-cultural, social, political and religious organizations and ask them to nominate five second-year students who could help contribute as a liaison from their community to ours.”

Third-year College student Andrew Kwon, the newly-elected fourth-year president, said he wants to innovate and improve the Council General Body Meetings in order to increase efficiency and productivity. He said he hopes to see more transparency throughout the Council regarding what Chairs of committees, the vice president and the president do behind the scenes.

University Judiciary Committee representatives were also vocal about the changes they wanted to see within their organization. University Judiciary College Representative, third-year College student Caitlin Cosby, said UJC hopes to make UJC more accessible to the University community.

“I would love to see UJC become a more available resource to the student body,” Cosby said in an email. “UJC possesses an immense support system that many students are unaware of, and because of that I want the UVA community to be more educated about all of UJC's services.”

University Judiciary Committee representative Mackenzie Austin, a third-year College student, expressed her desire to diversify the types of cases the UJC hears beyond alcohol-related incidents.

“The first thing I'll do in office is work on expanding the breadth of cases that the UJC hears through various diversity and outreach initiatives,” Austin said in an email.

The Honor representatives touched on the importance of communication and adequate representation of the student body. Third-year College student Grace Muth, a newly-elected Honor Committee representative for the College, said she hopes to collaborate with other committee members in order to improve the Honor system.

“Now that the 27 elected representatives have been selected, we as a Committee need to work collaboratively to establish which of our goals we are going to prioritize,” Muth said. “Many of us ran on different platforms, and have a number of varying opinions about the direction that we believe Honor should take. The first thing I’m going to do in office is meet with all the other Committee representatives, and to talk about what worked and did not work in the last Committee’s term, and how we want to move forward collaboratively.”

Third-year College student Russell Bogue, also a newly-elected Honor Committee representative for the College, said that changes will require working with peers. Bogue hopes to expand modes of faculty outreach, survey schools regarding the multi-sanction system and expand the Honor Committee’s role in conversations about acts other than lying, stealing and cheating.

“It’s an exciting time to serve on the Honor Committee because we’re having important and substantive conversation about more essential parts of the Honor system and what it means to be an honorable student,” Bogue said.

The Honor referenda

The three proposed Honor referenda all passed by majority votes. The first referendum will require the Committee to convene on popular assembly every two years. The second referendum will hold the Committee accountable to non-binding resolution on questions of student body opinion. The third referendum will opens the door for the implementation of a multi-sanction Honor system, requiring the Committee to consider a vote next year.

“The two constitutional amendments, combined with the non-binding resolution, make our work cut out for us — we will likely start exploring a multi-sanction system right away in order to make the best use of our year in office,” third-year Commerce student Avery Rasmussen, a newly-elected Honor Committee Commerce representative, said in an email.

Rasmussen said the Honor Committee will need to more thoroughly examine the effects of the multi-sanction system on the Honor system.

“We'll need to start exploring what a multi-sanction system might look like and what the effects might be on our system,” Rasmussen said. “We'll also need to start further engaging the student body right away so that we can be sure we are truly representing what the student body wants to see so that we can be fully prepared to propose a constitutional amendment next year.”

Third-year Commerce student Faith Lyons, a newly-elected Honor Committee representative, campaigned against the third referendum and noted that the small margin of the vote reveals just how controversial it is. However, she said this serves as a great starting point for student engagement.

“I think the first two [referenda], while I don’t necessarily know if they need a constitutional amendment, represent a good way to make the Committee more accessible,” Lyons said. “It gives us a year to engage with students in a more meaningful way about how Honor is working at U.Va.”

The efficacy of student self-governance

7,017 students voted in the election, representing 30.8 percent of the student body. The election provided the opportunity to reflect on the value of student self-governance, as well as its inherent tensions within the system. Some expressed concern regarding lack of voter turnout.

“Voter turnout was 30 percent [this year] which was pretty shocking,” Williams said. “I think student self governance works, but it can work even better if more people are involved or encouraged to be involved.”

“The highest voter turnout I’ve ever seen was 40 percent, so I think in theory I am comfortable extolling the virtues of student self governance,” Bogue said. “In practice, I have qualms about how effective it is.”

Axler pointed out that several cultural organizations, such as the Asian Student Union operate within their own governmental system. He said he doesn’t think this is necessarily a good or bad thing, but that Student Council needs to recognize its job and bridge the gaps.

“I think some of the decline in voter turnout is [because] we’re no longer organizations making big governmental impact,” Axler said.

Overall, Muth said student self-governance provides students with skills that will prove valuable following graduation.

“I believe the value of our degree from this University is not just based on our GPA, but our ability to participate in making positive changes within our school,” Muth said. “Our core value of student self governance asks students to develop leadership skills that will be a part of our lives long after graduation.”

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