Second-year College student Kayla Dunn was elected Monday evening as the Latinx Student Alliance president for the 2018-19 school year. Dunn will succeed fourth-year College student Raquel Talbott in the position.
Approximately 30 LSA members were in attendance and also elected Valeria Lopez Vaszquez, a second-year College student and current LSA social chair, to serve as vice president of community engagement. Vazquez was elected by a two-thirds majority threshold due to the uncontested election for the position.
The role of vice president of advocacy was left vacant when no LSA members declared their candidacy for the position.
Dunn campaigned on a platform highlighting four major points — ensuring that the number of admitted students at the University is proportionately representative of the Latinx population of Virginia, working with other multicultural organizations to increase minority faculty members, collaborating with the University Student Council to increase Latinx representation and striving to be representative of community needs through more structured general body meetings.
“It is time that our voices are heard. It’s going to take hard work. It’s going to take actions, not words,” Dunn said.
Dunn added she would also like to increase LSA membership, attributing low membership numbers to a sense of minimal involvement and advocacy at the University, especially in the wake of the deadly Unite the Right rally in August and the destruction in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria in September and October.
“When it comes to the advocacy role and the community engagement role, we just haven’t been effective within our own U.Va. community,” Dunn said. “I think a lot of people were kind of tired of the complacency of everything.”
Dunn also acknowledged the privilege that comes with her identity as a white, Puerto Rican woman, and vowed to use her voice for the greater good of the Latinx community at the University.
“I recognize my voice is more likely to be heard,” Dunn said. “I think it’s a really big role to highlight issues that don’t really involve me [and] bring up issues that other people are going through ... [I would] use my privilege to work with administration to make sure these issues are heard.”
Eddie Castillo, a fourth-year College student and outgoing vice president for advocacy, told The Cavalier Daily that this is the first time LSA has selected its leaders through an election process. Prior to the election, each candidate was allotted time for a five-minute speech and a five-minute question-and-answer session with the audience, moderated by representatives from the Minority Rights Coalition.
Castillo said that prior to the implementation of the election process, LSA used a system in which the outgoing fourth-year executive board members would personally select the incoming leadership following an application and interview process.
The election process was established after Castillo and other members saw that the majority of the voices within LSA were not being heard.
“From [the outgoing fourth-year panel], we saw that a lot of the community didn’t get a voice in that, so we decided to move it to a democratic election,” Castillo said.
Vazquez’s platform focused on aiding the work of committees within LSA, working with the Office of the Dean of Students to advocate for the University’s Latinx population and improving relations with Latinx Alumni Network. Vasquez expressed a desire to work with intentionality and place purpose behind every LSA event.
“I want every event to have a purpose and not just be something thrown together last minute,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez also spoke about holding individuals in executive positions to higher standards of accountability in order to better foster leadership and development within LSA.
“We have this title and we have the opportunity to have these titles to be [executive board] members, but sometimes we’re not there,” Vasquez said, adding that she’d like to “hold people accountable in our committees and be strict.”
Correction: This article erroneously named Dunn as a third-year College student. She is presently a second-year College student.