This is a transcript of an interview The Cavalier Daily conducted with Eddie Lin, a third-year College student and candidate for Student Council president. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Third-year College student Alex Cintron and first-year College student Jalon Daniels 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 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 . The event is open to students and will also be live-streamed on The Cavalier Daily’s .
The Cavalier Daily: Why do you want to be Student Council president?
Eddie Lin: I want to run for president because I believe Student Council is an organization that has a lot of potential and being able to address student needs and student issues, and it has a special place in my university. Student Council is supposed to be the representative of all students … it needs to do a far better job at informing students, letting people know about what's going on ... and letting people know about what tools they can get from Student Council. Most of my friends are not involved in Student Council … even the people who are really involved in a lot of [Contracted Independent Organizations], they don't know what Student Council can do for them.
CD: What experiences at UVA have informed your decision to run for president, and how have these experiences prepared you to lead Student Council?
EL: I think one very important thing is institutional knowledge. I've been a part of Student Council since my first year … Just being a student here, I feel like being able to interact with different groups, being able to have a lot of friends from everywhere, I think that really is giving me the strong perspective that I needed … I'm able to see a perspective that a lot of people ... don't know what's going on with Student Council, they don't know who they can access … I've had a great time with Student Council. I think as a representative, I've tried … to do everything in my capacity to boost student voice, whether it's through promoting resources such as
I think if you look at my record as a Student Council representative, I have a consistency of letting people know what's going on, connecting people towards administrators and being able to navigate around a system to be able to create positive change in an organization. And — but again — I don't think me being rep is enough because I'm just one rep, but I think being able to serve as president, it's not about like the title or anything. It's not about power. It's about how do we use all the institutional responsibilities as a president who has a huge responsibility in setting the culture of the organization, setting the structure of the organization, setting the policies of the organization.
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?
EL: Student Council’s response to Aug. 11 and 12 was cautious hesitancy. I think once an event of this magnitude happens, a lot of groups are really looking forward to Student Council as a representative of all students. How are you able to come out of this event stronger as a University? A lot of minorities including myself were just shocked … Administration and [the University Police Department] did not handle it as well as it could … [The administration] had prior knowledge, there’s actually emails of prior knowledge of it [Aug. 11] happening, and they still allowed it to happen. I would make sure to work with UPD and work with administration to see how do you solve this problem.
I think when something like this happens, Student Council needs to take a bold, swift and decisive response. I'm not saying that Student Council shouldn't listen to everyone. It's important for Student Council to listen to all groups but also once you gather strong perspectives. It's not up to us to be hesitant. It’s also not up to us to just wait to see what happens. I think it's important to go to every student group, contact as many leaders from all CIOs as possible to see how they feel towards a solution and … towards what's going on, and then really like try to facilitate, try to call forth a facilitation like working group or working group sessions connecting a lot of student groups to administrators.
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?
EL: I think Sarah Kenny has done a good job. She's done a good job as president. I think in some ways [the] organization can improve. I've been on Student Council since my first year, and I think there have been some good improvements. I think the media side of Student Council — with the Facebook and the livestream everything in attempting to inform people like a social media presence — I think is a really strong social media presence, and I definitely want to be able to keep up that social media presence.
So definitely a lot more about that proactive outreach thing. And also another thing I will contrast with Sarah Kenny is I would make sure a lot of these issues surrounding our University, whether tuition increases or the status of our undocumented students, I don't want to downplay these issues at all. I think Sarah Kenney has addressed them in the past, and I think it's good that she makes statements supporting it, but I think more important than statements supporting them is how do we work with our activist groups such as DREAMers on Grounds and with Charlottesville city groups who are fighting for affordable housing.
And lastly, I think for differences from Sarah Kenny, I think something [is that] I would put more pressure on the administration. I think sometimes — again it's like cautious hesitancy, and I'm not afraid to speak up. I'm not afraid of what administration thinks about me. I'm willing to fight for you students, and it's not something — like I'm not doing this for a resume. If the administrators are mad at me because my protesting about a tuition increase, so be it. That's, I think, my job as president is to fight for you … I'm definitely willing to talk to people and just formulating plans to be able to have certain policies brought to you.
CD: Last fall Student Council 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?
EL: It's something I feel that even though we put a lot of pressure on administration because of these demands … No systematic policies have changed out of it. And I think a problem with that is because when we do student activism at our University, sometimes when Student Council wants to take the lead on solving the March to Reclaim our Grounds demands, again we don't want to work with outside groups.
Why don't you [adminstration] hire more minority faculty? Why don't you hire more minority students? — which were probably the least addressed out of the March to Reclaim our Grounds demands ... Applications went down for both black and international students. Why has U.Va. not responded to that? Why [has] U.Va. not created a concrete action plan and being able to ensure that we get more minority students. And again if administration … if they're hesitant about it, I'll put pressure on them. I'll make sure that we work with our groups. It shows that students do care about it, whether that's through rallies, whether that's through disruptions, anything is in the realm of possibility. That's something that I would definitely push for.
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.
EL: I think, firstly, it's important to contact all the students, especially the minority organizations that are probably the most affected by these sorts of events, letting them know. Again, it's not me to like dictate people, I don't want to be a dictator, I'm not running for student dictator, but it’s important to let them know what kind of action plans we can really take and how do we lobby administration — but not only administration but also [the Charlottesville] City Council and UPD, and I think being be able to get a coordinated fashion and being able to set up — whether it's safety protocols, whether it’s [hiring] legal protection to make sure … they stay within the law.
[When] we see an event like Aug. 11 and 12 happen, and we want to see how our University builds from these sorts of events. And also during that time, I think Charlottesville residents were extremely affected by that. I would ask Student Council to really just reach out to Charlottesville residents, whether that's like community engagement and our City Council — groups that really do a lot of community service around the area to show that U.Va. students are here for you because at the end the day, U.Va. students were hurt, but I think our whole city, our whole community was broken during that time. And there's something that, if that happens again, I want to make sure that as soon as we hear about it, we gather groups in a room together, and we connect them towards administration, towards police. And we let them know like last time what you did was wrong, and this time we want to set protocols to be able to make sure things are different.
CD: If elected, what would be your top priority, and how you would go about realistically addressing it?
EL: Our top priority is student voice everywhere. That's a part of our platform. And again, it's all about student voice. It’s all about being able to get more voices in the room, and we don't see this as some abstract thing where people are like, “I really like making sure your voice is heard,” and then when the year comes by, never hearing from us again… It starts from creating a team — when I'm creating my team, I'm looking for people who really care about our student body, who really know the things that matter, who are involved [in] not only just Student Council. They don't need to be involved in another CIO, but they need to be able to accurately — really have a feel for how the student body is and then building that team off comes through a rigorous recruitment process. We're looking for the best people. We're looking for people who are not only experienced but again like are very cognizant of how the student body is.
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?
EL: So in terms of the University administration, I think you need to — in order to get anything important done at this University, you need administration. But just because I need administration doesn't mean I have to like cozy up to them. There’s a lot of different ways you can pressure, I mean ways you can work with administration. So firstly, I would try — for a lot of cases, it's important to maintain some relationship with administration. I'm not going to like just ignore them when I don't see them. I think it's important to get really connected with them. I've already met a lot of deans before, and I always try my best to let them know what's going on with the students, what students are thinking. And I think more important is sometimes they [Administration] feel like students don't go out to them a lot. I think Sarah Kenny said it best at a meeting, a student basically said, “Hey. I feel like administration only wants to work with student leaders,” and she said, “administration’s happy to work with people. Any student any student, they want.” I just think the problem is for me personally is that students don't know ... who to go to for administrative things, and I really want to help bridge students together with administration because I think that's the only way that real policy comes out of things. So, yes, administration does help us because they have the power in our University. They hinder us because at times I think every administrator is very cautious. I think administrators are usually pretty hesitant on taking action, unless there's enough pressure or there is enough of a good reason or enough money to support something.
CD: Students will be voting on to decide whether to grant the president veto power over the Representative Body, although this veto could be overridden by a ⅔ 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?
EL: I completely disagree with the veto. I think currently as it is right now, I [if elected president] don't need any more power over Student Council. I think the executive board does not need any more power over the Representative Body, and I think in the past executive power has tried to dominate the Representative Body in ways that, in my opinion, are just not necessary. So I think there's no reason to just grant another. Like with Congress, there is a veto. But at this point within our Student Council, the Representative Body has far less stature. A lot of times reps are expected to listen to the executive board, but it doesn't work the other way around … I would never try to say, “You have to go by me in order to like post something on Facebook,” because you're elected as a rep, you are elected by the student body to help represent your constituents. I respect that completely. I think yes there is supposed to be some sort of separation of powers in this. And yes there are checks and balances right now, but the checks and balances right now are just too skewed towards the executive board.
That's not me. I'm not looking for another veto. And I think it's completely unnecessary, and it goes against really valuing student voice and respecting the legitimacy of the Representative Body. If anything, the representative body should be more powerful. So our positive legislative body is that we're not going to be trampling on it.
But at the same time we don't want chaos, so we're definitely encouraging like a structure that we can set. We want reps, and we want our chairs to work together on a structure during the beginning of the year because as a rep, there were many times in my opinion that the structure wasn't communicated as well as it could be this year … I don't want to set the policy right now because our reps haven't been elected yet.
CD: What should the relationship look like between the Student Council president and the vice presidents for administration and organizations?
EL: I think the Vice President for Administration, the President and the Vice President for Organizations should all work very closely together. I think it's important that when you have the executive board … there's a strong team within the process. And again as president, I want to be able to like make decisions collaboratively with my body. I understand that I'm president, but sometimes that comes with working across a strong team of students. And yeah, I understand that in this election, there's like running mates and everything. Me and my running mate [Al Ahmed], we talk about this a lot like we really would work well together. His name is Ahmed. Oh he's great, you should vote for him. But at the same time if something happens where I lose or if he loses, sometimes you have to work with the other person. And I think when it comes down to that, there will have to be compromises being made. Not — I wouldn't have to say compromises, but there will have to be long and tangible discussions on where you really want to see [where] the student body goes to. I think the Vice President for Administration is — I respect the role a lot for Vice President for Administration, they're very much in charge of helping set the structure and the procedure protocols and managing the Outreach Committee and the Technology Committee to finance these. I think these are important things.
CD: Numerous endorsing student organizations have signed on to 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?
EL: Yes, I am. I think campaign finance is extremely important. Actually, what happened was me and my running mate were talking earlier … maybe we should talk to the other candidates and make a deal that we don't spend that much because I don't think anyone should be able to buy the election ... I just honestly prefer if everything was public funds. That's just me because I don't think you should have to spend a dollar on elections. Maybe a dollar but not like 10 dollars. But I think it's something that I'm very glad has been emphasized because low income students should not be hurt from this election process. I'm just a competitive guy — I want to beat you with the same amount of money you spend. I don't want to be like, “Oh, I spent more money and beat you,” I want to be like “Okay, we spent even amounts of money, and I still beat you.” That's just me, but I'm just kidding. But I think it's definitely a step forward in a positive direction. I'm looking forward to everything that comes out of this election.
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?
EL: I mean, honestly, I think what it should be is the University Board of Elections should be able to [freely] grant, because right now we apply for grants. I don't know if I received the grant or not, but I think all students should be able to receive grants. We have a lot of money in this University, and I think U.Va. could do some fundraising or some objective thing to be able to make sure that every candidate is able to get a good amount of grants. And then, I think honestly in the ideal world, I think if you fundraise enough, and you let people know about student self governance, I think people will really have enough money to run an election without using public finances. I think that's the perfect thing. I’ve never heard of U.Va. like — they might do a lot of fundraising, but I've never heard about these initiatives. And I think it's something that a lot of people would be really interested in because I think student self governance is talked about a lot, but I don't think you can really live out student self-governance unless you limit money in elections because we want students to be in charge of the process. We want students to really take ownership of the leadership opportunities, and I think excessive spending on elections really gets in the way of that kind of that philosophy. I think in student self governance right now as it is, a lot of people have it in our University, but a lot of people, especially groups that are ... more disenfranchised do not possess that. And I think having money in elections only gives the groups that already have more power in this University an even stronger foothold. And I really think in order to help balance things out, I think it's just important. Preferably public funds are the only things you use.
CD: What is one council expenditure you think is important and what is one that concerns you?
EL: I think the most important thing we have right now is within the VPO’S domain. So the money we distribute to CIO’s I think is the most valuable thing in our University. So we collect student activities fees, but we also distribute a lot of money, and this money doesn't only just go into — it's not just Student Council. Student Council also distributes money. So all these CIOs across Grounds [receive] funds [for] a lot of things, and I think that's the single most important thing that Student Council spends on right now. It’s something that affects student lives in so many ways, it hits so many corners of our University… Right now we're good at what we're [giving] student groups on giving them money, but we also want to get their voice.
I think expenditures that are not needed as much are — I think Student Council, when we treat ourselves at events, I think it should be more spartan. So we have sometimes expensive banquets and nice things, and we actually spend a lot of money on to invite deans and administrators to come over to share. I forgot the exact cost of the money, but it was like a fancy fancy dinner and things like that. And I do not think these kind of purchases are necessary. Like some of these trips to Monticello. I think it looks really — it does help build like that team aspect sometimes, but I think if Student Council could really focus on how do we lower the cost of treating ourselves out — so instead of having like a fancy dinner to try to get quote unquote connections with administrators that a lot of people didn't even attend, Student Council didn't even attend. I would recommend like maybe look into why not just meet up somewhere like Newcomb with our student administrators.
CD: Students have 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 and a 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?
EL: So, I think Student Council’s role is — we can't be like, we don't control the UPD, so we can't patrol every street ourselves in police cars, but at the same time we can communicate to the student body initiatives that UPD has taken in response to some of these incidents. And honestly to be candid, I don't think UPD has, at least from my knowledge when I contacted them, they haven't done the best they could to really respond to these incidents. So, I actually contacted UPD after the safety issues, the , and they just seemed to shrug off the issue like ... and they just claim, “Well, we don't have enough resources.” We can’t go on every street, but at the same when something like two attempted abductions happens, there needs to be some sort of a strong safety response.
But not only that, it comes back to my platform — but also working with like a lot of groups around Grounds, a lot of groups interested in safety awareness around Grounds to come up with some of these collaborative solutions. Again I'm not proposing like these extremely hyper-specific things because I can't get them done — I don't want to promise something that I can't be able to get done. But these groups could contact administration, help work on maybe making a new app for the alerts or maybe work with the CS department on creating a new alert system that's like better managed and more responsive.
I think Student Council in general does not publicize again the steps that they're taking. There's actually an app called , I believe, and it's starting to get made. But again, if you asked most people who are concerned about safety issues, a lot of people don't know this is happening. I think Student Council can do a better job, whether it's like more office hours for representatives, whether it is contacting different CIOs and letting them know, “Hey guys. This is an important issue. There's a LiveSafe app being made, and we want to hear your input on how do you want this app to be customized for the U.Va. experience?”