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Student Council legislation supports Asian American community and student workers, prompts debate among members

The representative body passed SR21-10 and SB21-11 before some members took to Twitter to criticize a fellow representative

<p>Campaigning for Student Council Elections will start March 12 and voting will begin March 17.</p>

Campaigning for Student Council Elections will start March 12 and voting will begin March 17.

Student Council passed two pieces of legislation Tuesday — SR21-10, A Resolution in Support of the Asian Student Union’s Statement Denouncing The Increase in Violence Against the APIDA Community and SB21-11, A Bill to Renew the Ad-Hoc Committee to Support Student Workers. SR21-10 passed with 22 votes in favor and one abstention, while SB21-11 passed with 23 votes in favor.

SR21-10 was sponsored by Adrian Mamaril, representative and second-year College student, and Abel Liu, chair of the representative body and third-year College student. The resolution condemns “xenophobia, racism and violence against the Asian-American community” and calls on the University to do the same. 

“The Representative Body also urges the University to increase funding for Multicultural Student Services programming which provides extensive opportunities that provide a safe space for and amplify the voices of the Asian-American community, along with multiple other multicultural and diverse communities at the University,” the resolution read.

The legislation comes in wake of a statement from the Asian Student Union released Feb. 14, denouncing the hatred and violence those in the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American have faced during the coronavirus pandemic. The beginning of the statement cited specific instances of violence against Asian Americans, and one of these listed acts of violence led to a man’s death.

“There has been a dramatic increase in anti-Asian sentiment across the United States since the pandemic started, which has led to acts of hatred and violence against the APIDA community,” the statement said. “Rhetoric from the previous administration, labeling the pandemic as the ‘China Virus’ or the ‘Wuhan Virus,’ has catalyzed these attacks, and main-stream coverage of these incidents has been disgustingly abysmal.”

To respond to attacks against the APIDA community, the statement encouraged placing a focus on investing in structures that emphasize “healing and repair rather than violence and punishment.” The ASU also recognized the concurrent discrimination and “harrowing experiences” that the Black and Latinx communities face and encouraged these groups to stand together.

“We are all facing the common enemy of racism and white supremacy, and it can only be taken down if we band together,” the statement said.

Sanjeev Kumar, ASU vice-president and second-year College and McIntire student, said the ASU was prompted to write the statement because there has been a “dramatic increase” in the number of xenophobic and racist attacks toward Asian Americans in 2021 thus far. Additionally, he said there wasn’t a “lot of movement and mobility” from the University community to bring attention to the attacks.

Last March, two Chinese international students filed a report with the University claiming that eggs were thrown at them near the Aquatic and Fitness Center. 

During the Student Council meeting, Mamaril urged his representatives to support the Asian-American community by passing SR21-10.

“There [have] been several incidents of physical violence against Asian-Americans in recent weeks across United States, but we have yet to see coverage by major news outlets in a timely manner about the concerning increase in violence towards the Asian-American
 community,” Mamaril said. “It starts with a change in attitude from each and every one of us to support … Asian-Americans, but also all minority groups, especially in our surrounding

Nickolaus Cabrera, representative and first-year College student, abstained from the vote, which elicited a strong response from several members of Student Council, including Ellen Yates, Student Council president and fourth-year College student. 

“I just wanted to point out to all students in the College that your Student Council Representative Nick Cabrera voted to ABSTAIN on a resolution that condemned attacks on members of the APIDA community,” Yates said in a tweet during the meeting. “Elections are in two weeks, think about who you want representing you.”

Another member of Student Council’s executive board — Noah Strike, third-year College student and Student Council’s director of University relations — spoke against Cabrera. Strike noted that executive board members previously refrained from commenting on representative action out of “precedent of civility” but chose to make an exception this time.

Cabrera responded to Yates’ criticism via Twitter.

“Today I also abstained from A Resolution in Support of the Asian Student Union’s Statement Denouncing The Increase in Violence Against the APIDA Community,” Cabrera said in a tweeted statement. “I ABSTAINED from voting because while I found these resolutions necessary, the ASU at U.Va. has urged the community to sign a petition to ‘Defund the Charlottesville Police Department.”

The second legislation passed, SB21-11, acknowledges that “the COVID-19 crises has resulted in many student workers losing their on-Grounds employment or facing significantly reduced hours” and was sponsored by Yates. 

Student Council previously supported student workers during the pandemic by renewing an Ad Hoc Committee to Support Student Workers on April 14, 2020. The committee “was tasked with investigating the ‘student worker’ status category,” which includes “comparing the student worker experience against the Student Rights afforded to all University of Virginia students” and “exploring how to best incorporate student voice into hiring board and administrative changes,” among other things.

After banning in-person gatherings and closing most University facilities for 10 days starting Feb. 16, the University promised that student workers would not lose their wages. 

“We're doing work basically to support student workers and improve their working conditions,” Yates said. “One of [the initiatives] is going to be a hiring pledge in which the University provides as many student jobs when it returns to normal operations as it did before the pandemic.”

At the meeting, Cabrera announced his intent to introduce three pieces of legislation in the future. His proposals include beginning every Student Council meeting with the pledge of allegiance, protecting monuments around Grounds and passing a resolution to end cancel culture at the University.

Campaigning for Student Council elections will start March 12, and the Student Council presidential debate will be held March 15. Voting for student government elections — which includes Student Council, University Judiciary Committee, Honor Committee and Class Councils — will begin March 17. 

Sierra Martin contributed reporting to this article.