Student Council representatives fail to pass resolution on University’s 'watch list' admission practice

The Council’s executive members released a statement condemning the practice, but the formal resolution did not receive a majority vote

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Student Council's representatives did not pass the resolution condemning the University's watch list practice. Jenn Brice | Cavalier Daily

During its meeting Tuesday evening, Student Council voted on a resolution in response to The Cavalier Daily’s reporting on newly-obtained email correspondence that ties members of the University’s admissions, advancement and administrative staff to a “watch list” of “high-priority” applicants connected to donors. The representative body failed to pass a resolution that would condemn the practice, with nine representatives voting in favor, eight against and six abstaining.

In the statement issued before Tuesday’s meeting, Student Council’s Executive Board said that this practice goes against the tenets of democracy and equity which, as a public institution, should be central to the University. Executive members of Student Council clarified that they still stand by this statement on the matter, despite the formal resolution not being passed.

“The ability that wealthy donors and alumni have to alter the admissions process runs contrary to that responsibility,” the statement said. “If the University wishes to be both great and good, these practices must end.”

Although the nine votes in favor held a majority over the eight opposed, the significant number of representatives who abstained brought forth the question as to whether abstaining voters were considered either present, and therefore contributing towards the total number of votes cast, or present and voting, in which case their votes did not count toward the total number. 

Daniel Jachim, a fourth-year College student and rules and ethics chair for Student Council, ultimately determined that abstained voters would be considered present, and that the nine who voted in favor of the resolution thus did not outnumber the 14 combined representatives who were either opposed or abstained.

Isabella Liu, a second-year College student and Student Council’s chair of the representative body, introduced the resolution and emphasized that voting to pass the resolution was a matter of principle. Liu expressed her opposition to the watch list, but some representatives voiced concerns that Student Council should hear from University officials on the matter before issuing a condemning resolution.

Third-year College student Amr Metwally said during representatives’ discussion on the resolution that he believed Student Council should consult University faculty to clarify the watch list practice.

“I'd love if someone came from one of these respective offices and talked about this,” Metwally said. “Because, as we've all discussed, it is absolutely unacceptable for something like this to be going on. But I also want to see what the University is doing to make sure that this isn't what we think it is.”

When it was at first unclear how the abstained voters would be allocated, Liu called a brief recession. After the representatives reconvened and votes were counted, the resolution failed. Liu noted after the vote that Student Council rarely fails to pass proposals.

Ellie Brasacchio, a fourth-year College student and president of Student Council, said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily that she did not expect the representative body’s resistance to voting on the resolution.

“I hoped that the representative body would understand that resolutions are really about sentiment,” Brasacchio said. “And I was a bit disappointed that a lot of representatives did not take a strong stance — either-or. I think we have as much information as we're ever going to get on this issue, and my stance is still the same.”

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