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Student elections see record turnout, Liu wins 80% of vote in presidential race

Liu is U.Va.'s first Chinese American Student Council President and the first student government president at a major university who was openly transgender when elected

The University Board of Elections announced results of the 2021 election Friday night. Third-year College student Abel Liu was elected Student Council president with 81.2 percent of the presidential election vote. His opponent, third-year College student Gavin Oxley, garnered 1,778 votes, or 18.8 percent of votes cast.

Liu will serve as the University’s first Chinese American Student Council president as well as the first openly transgender student government president who was “out” at the time of his election at a major American university.

Liu's team, which initially stated that Liu was the first-ever transgender student government president at a major American public university, issued an amended statement Saturday morning acknowledging that Taylor Maloney, the student government president at Virginia Commonwealth University, was the first.

"We are sincerely sorry and have been in touch with Taylor to give them the credit that they deserve," the amended statement said.

The rest of Liu’s ticket was elected in unopposed races — second-year College student Ryan Cieslukowski will serve as vice president for organizations, and third-year College student Cecilia Cain will serve as vice president for administration. 

In a statement released shortly after results were announced, Liu’s ticket thanked the University community for supporting them and securing a “moral victory on a referendum about who we hope to become as a University.” The statement specifically cited “fear-mongering, misinformation and personal smears,” which made the race a “microcosm of American politics.” 

Oxley’s campaign and some supporters are currently under investigation for potential violations, including spreading misinformation about Liu’s platform and campaigning before the period was allowed to begin. Jewish student leaders also released a statement Wednesday condemning comments from Oxley that "perpetuate antisemitism" in comparing abortion to Holocaust.

Despite the controversy, Liu, Cain and Cieslukowski said that they were “especially heartened” by the University community’s support.

“The last week has been exhausting and, at times, traumatizing,” the statement said. “But the real work has just begun.”

41.6 percent of students voted — an increase of over 20 percentage points from last year's rate of 10.03 percent. Additionally, 25.4 percent of students voted on this year’s proposed referenda, a substantial increase compared to the previous yearly average of 8 percent.

Fourth-year Commerce student and University Board of Elections Chair Spence Whitney called the voting rates a “huge step in the right direction for student self-governance at U.Va.”

“I’d attribute this high turnout to several things, and the UBE cannot take credit for all it. We had a record number of candidates this year, this is an election year in America, and arguably I’d say that everyone being indoors on their computers and social media has helped our turnout,” Whitney said. “We placed a huge emphasis on accessibility and marketing. We also overhauled our website and social media.”

UBE sourced over $1,000 in prizes from local and minority owned businesses, Whitney added, as well as non-local and virtual incentives for students who are not living in Charlottesville this semester. 

“I think we saw students really respond to those incentives, and overall, I’m pleased with how things have turned out this year,” Whitney said.

Student Council representatives

This year, at least one individual ran for every representative position. This is in stark contrast to last year, when at least 11 seats were left vacant. Twenty-two candidates ran for 12 College of Arts and Sciences undergraduate Student Council representative positions. Members of the representative body are responsible for drafting and passing legislation and advocating on the behalf of the students they serve. 

First-year students Violette Cadet, Nina Santana, Lillian Rojas, Tyler Busch, Tichara Robertson Lewis and Christian Ephriam, second-year students Lara Arif, Ella Tynch and Booker Johnson and third-year student Noah Strike were elected Student Council undergraduate College representatives.

Second-year student Gabriela Hernandez and third-year student Ryan Alcorn were also re-elected as College undergraduate representatives. 

Second-year student Adrian Mamaril was elected Student Council Commerce undergraduate representative.

Chanthang Oliver was elected Student Council Continuing and Professional Studies undergraduate representative in a contested race. 

Third-year student Jay Moody was elected Student Council Education undergraduate representative.

Third-year students Rithika Kormath Anand and Joshua Franklin and first-year student Sarah Kirk were elected Student Council Engineering undergraduate representatives in a contested race.

Third-year student Rand Perry was elected Student Council Batten undergraduate representative. 

Graduate student Alex Sheng was elected Student Council College graduate student representative and graduate student Isa Fortuno was elected Student Council Darden representative. Both of these positions have one vacancy, in which case the school can appoint a replacement or schedule a special election to fill the position.

Honor Committee and University Judiciary Committee

Second-year students Gabrielle Bray and Amanda Chok and third-year students Charlotte Paulussen, Andrew Chambers and Christian Smith were elected Honor College of Arts and Sciences representatives. 

Third-year students Jack Stone and Maggie Regnery were elected Honor Commerce representatives while graduate students Meghan Wingert and Christopher Benos were elected Honor Law representatives. 

Third-year student Caitlin Kreinheder was elected Architecture Honor representative, graduate student Lucian Mirra was elected School of Education Honor representative, second-year student Deepa Patel was elected Nursing Honor representative, Robert Brown was elected Continuing and Professional Studies Honor representative and fourth-year student Hunter Wagenaar was elected Batten Honor representative — each position leaves one vacancy. 

Second-year students Nabeel Raza and Peyton Hamlett and third-year student Lauren Kim were elected Judiciary College representatives. 

Second-year student Austin Amacher and third-year student Gustavo Moreira were elected Judiciary Engineering representatives. 

Second-year Hallie Rubenstein and third-year student Joria Le were elected Judiciary Nursing representatives.  

Michael Baron and Jesse Zmick were elected Judiciary Continuing and Professional Studies representatives. 

Graduate students Emmett Mercer and Jing Xu were elected Judiciary Darden representatives. 

Third-year student Max Nardi was elected Judiciary Commerce representative, third-year Stella Connaughton was elected Judiciary Batten representative, graduate student Adam Younger was elected Judiciary Law representative and third-year student Jackson Key was elected Judiciary Architecture representative — each position has one seat vacant. 

Class Councils

College students Kyle Woodson and Karina Reynolds were elected on a ticket together as Second Year Council president and vice president, respectively. The two served as president and vice president of the First Year Council. 

College students Sophia Liao and Lara Arif were elected Third Year Council president and vice president, respectively. Liao previously served as president of Second Year Council.

For Fourth Year Trustees, College students Chloe Lyda and Emma Keller were elected president and vice president, respectively.


All four proposed referenda passed this year — three from Student Council and one from UJC. The Honor Committee chose not to introduce referenda, citing that it would be a “waste of time” due to typically low turnout. In past years, the average turnout for referenda has been about 8 percent.

Student Council’s first item introduced changes to its constitution, including modernizing language to implement gender-neutral pronouns, using the University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights’ approved non-discrimination agreement and noting that students attending the University virtually can vote in elections. The item passed with 88.75 percent voting in favor. 

The second item proposed the creation of two new student representative positions geared toward supporting international students. 88.67 percent voted in favor of this change. 

Student Council’s third and final item passed with 84.4 percent voted in favor and proposed the creation of a new branch focused on consolidating student resources and services under one leader. 

UJC passed its singular item, a proposed amendment to its constitution, with 85.63 percent voting in favor — the amendment includes changes to language to include gender expression, updated membership requirements and changing the number of votes required to pass an amendment. 

Full results: 

Student Council

Student Council President: Abel Liu

Student Council Vice President for Administration: Cecilia Cain

Student Council Vice President for Organizations: Ryan Cieslukowski

Student Council Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Representatives: Violette Cadet, Gabriela Hernandez, Nina Santana, Lillian Rojas, Lara Arif, Tyler Busch, Noah Strike, Booker Johnson, Tichara Robertson Lewis, Christian Ephriam, Ella Tynch, Ryan Alcorn

Student Council Arts & Sciences Graduate Representative: Alex Sheng

Student Council McIntire Undergraduate Representative: Adrian Mamaril

Student Council Continuing and Professional Studies Undergraduate Representative: Chanthang Oliver                                                                                               

Student Council Education Undergraduate Representative: Jay Moody                                           

Student Council Engineering Undergraduate Representatives: Rithika Kormath Anand, Sarah Kirk, Joshua Franklin        

Batten Undergraduate Student Council Representative: Rand Perry    

Student Council Darden Representative: Isa Fortuno                                                                               

Second Year Council

Second Year Council President: Kyle Woodson                                                                                                 

Second Year Council Vice President: Karina Reynolds    

Third Year Council

Third Year Council President: Sophia Liao                                                                                     Third Year Council Vice President: Lara Arif  

Fourth Year Trustees

Fourth Year Trustees President: Chloe Lyda

Fourth Year Trustees Vice President: Emma Keller       

Honor Committee Representatives

Honor College of Arts & Sciences Representatives: Gabrielle Bray, Amanda Chok, Anne Paulussen, Andrew Chambers, Christian Smith                                                                               

Honor School of Education Representative: Lucian Mirra     

Honor McIntire Representatives: Jack Stone, Maggie Regnery     

Honor Architecture Representative: Caitlin Kreinheder

Honor Law Representatives: Meghan Wingert, Christopher Benos

Honor Nursing Representative: Deepa Patel

Honor Continuing and Professional Studies Representative: Robert Brown

Honor Batten Representative: Hunter Wagenaar 

Honor Engineering Representatives: Anna Cuddeback, Christina Rodriguez

Honor Darden Representative: Mary Zack H’Doubler, Beau Muniz

University Judiciary Committee 

Judiciary College of Arts & Sciences Representatives: Lauren Kim, Nabeel Raza, Peyton Hamlett

Judiciary Architecture Representative: Jackson Key

Judiciary Engineering Representatives: Austin Amacher, Gustavo Moreira

Judiciary Law Representative: Adam Younger

Judiciary Nursing Representatives: Hallie Rubenstein, Joria Le

Judiciary Continuing and Professional Studies Representatives: Michael Baron, Jesse Zmick 

Judiciary Batten Representative: Stella Connaughton

Judiciary Commerce Representative: Max Nardi

Judiciary Darden Representatives: Emmett Mercer, Jing Xu   

Architecture School Council

Architecture School Council President: Caitlin Kreinheder

Architecture School Council Vice President: Thomas Ryan

Architecture School Council Secretary: Emma Gallaugher

Architecture School Council Treasurer: Keita Heinrich

College Council

College Council President: Ian Smith

College Council Vice President: Sayli Satpute

College Council Secretary: Isabelle Pruiett

College Council Treasurer: vacant

Batten Undergraduate Council

Batten Undergraduate Council President: Ned Flanagan

Batten Undergraduate Council Director of Communications: Zoe Komodromos 

Batten Undergraduate Council Treasurer: vacant

Batten Graduate Council

Batten Graduate Council President: Michael Pugh

Batten Graduate Council Secretary: Valery Schneider

Batten Graduate Council Treasurer: Savannah Rogers

Batten Graduate Council Special Events Chair: Kate Hastings

Batten Graduate Council Community Engagement Chair: Elizabeth Padhi

Commerce Council

Commerce Council President: Ralph De Palma

Commerce Council Vice President: Matthew Smith

Commerce Council Treasurer: vacant

Education Council

Education Council President: vacant

Education Council Treasurer: Arabella Lee

Education Council Vice President & Secretary: vacant

Education Council Professional Development and Scholarship Chair: vacant

Engineering Student Council

Engineering Student Council President: Golnar Mostashari

Engineering Student Council Vice President: vacant

Engineering Student Council Secretary: Isaac Heath

Engineering Student Council Treasurer: Christina George

Engineering Student Council Fourth Year Board President: vacant

Nursing Student Council

Nursing Student Council President: Zahra Alisa

Nursing Student Council Vice President: Emma Hearington

Nursing Student Council Secretary: Bridget Bechtloff

Nursing Student Council Diversity and Inclusion Chair: Milania Harris

Nursing Student Council Treasurer: Joria Le

Nursing Student Council Social Committee Chair: vacant

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that third-year College student Abel Liu is the first openly transgender student government president at a major public institution. This article has been amended with a statement from Liu's team.