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Student Council legislation reiterates financial need of U.Va. community, supports access to open textbooks

The representative body tabled two resolutions regarding comments made by Mayor Nikuyah Walker and protecting monuments on Grounds.

<p>SR 21-21, 21-22 and 21-23 were introduced by first-year College student Rep. Nickolaus Cabrera, while SR 21-24 was introduced by second-year College student Rep. Gabriela Hernandez and Rep. Abel Liu, third-year College student and chair of the representative body. Liu was also the sole sponsor of SR 21-25.&nbsp;</p>

SR 21-21, 21-22 and 21-23 were introduced by first-year College student Rep. Nickolaus Cabrera, while SR 21-24 was introduced by second-year College student Rep. Gabriela Hernandez and Rep. Abel Liu, third-year College student and chair of the representative body. Liu was also the sole sponsor of SR 21-25. 

Student Council passed SR 21-24, which asks the University to support the urgent financial need of students, faculty and staff, as well as SR 21-25, which asks the University to transition to open educational resources, at its general body meeting Tuesday night. One resolution demanding that students be given the option to recite the pledge of allegiance at Student Council meetings — SR 21-21 — failed to pass while two others — SR 21-22 and SR 21-23 — were tabled. SR 21-22 addressed controversial comments made by Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker and SR 21-23 demanded the preservation of monuments, memorials and statues on Grounds.

SR 21-21, 21-22 and 21-23 were introduced by first-year College student Rep. Nickolaus Cabrera while SR 21-24 was introduced by second-year College student Rep. Gabriela Hernandez and Rep. Abel Liu, third-year College student and chair of the representative body. Liu was also the sole sponsor of SR 21-25. 

There was no debate during legislative session over SR 21-21. The resolution was rejected with 16 Student Council members voting against it and two voting for it. 

The proposed resolution concerned Facebook comments from Walker posted on March 24 about the white supremacy still present in Charlottesville, likening the city to a rapist. The original post was taken down by Facebook for violating community guidelines, and Walker posted a longer poem with similar sentiments.

The post caused controversy for its triggering content and political commentary in Charlottesville, including among City Council and several other political figures in the city. 

Cabrera’s resolution said that he thinks her comments were “not representative of how the Charlottesville community behaves and works together” and asked that Walker write an apology to the citizens of Charlottesville and University students.

Hernandez expressed that she did not think the legislation addressed the needs of University students or the goals of Student Council. 

“This resolution is not relevant to the stated purpose of Student Council of improving the rights, opportunities and quality of life of the U.Va. student body,” Hernandez said. 

The resolution was tabled.

SR 21-23 asked that the University preserves and protects monuments and statues, including the statues of Thomas Jefferson, the statue of Homer, the statue of George Washington and the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. The resolution also asks that University ambassadors be allocated to positions near these monuments and statues to protect them from vandalism.

In defending his legislation, Cabrera spoke to the University being a UNESCO World Heritage site and appreciation of its two centuries-old history. 

“I think it shows that we appreciate the history, but obviously we acknowledge the flaws that the University of Virginia encompasses,” Cabrera said.

Hernandez motioned to table the resolution on account of a lack of evidence of vandalism occurring. The resolution was tabled.

SR 21-24 — which requests urgent financial relief for students, faculty and staff — points to the economic hardship experienced by many during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution asks that the $47 million the University received from the federal government under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act — an economic stimulus passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 — and America Rescue Plan be used for 5 percent salary increases for University faculty and staff and a tuition freeze for students. 

According to a fall 2020 survey administered by Student Council, 68.6 percent of student respondents said that the pandemic had negatively affected their families’ finances, and 41.7 percent of students reported struggling to pay tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year. These issues were especially prevalent for students of color and first-generation and low-income students, 64.9 percent of whom said they struggled to pay tuition.

The resolution also noted that several other Virginia colleges, including Virginia Tech, Radford University, James Madison University and the College of William and Mary, all either froze tuition for the past academic year or reversed tuition increases, unlike the University. The University Board of Visitors will meet to discuss tuition changes Tuesday.

SR 21-24 was passed with 15 yays, one nay and two abstentions. 

Liu introduced SR 21-25, which discusses the steep price of textbooks and the challenges costs pose to students, on behalf of Public Interest Research Groups Campus Action at U.Va. — a group that provides resources and opportunities to students to engage with various social issues. The legislation asks the University and professors to support low or no-cost textbooks, including open source books, which are free, shareable online resources.

In the resolution, Student Council calls on the Office of the Provost and the University administration to increase library support services and make a transition to open textbooks. 

Liu stated that he hoped to increase incentives for the University to transition to free textbooks. 

“I understand that this might not be the most popular topic, but it is incredibly important and serves as one of the best solutions to the exorbitant cost of textbooks at U.Va.,” Liu said.

The resolution was passed unanimously.

Student Council meets Tuesday nights at 6:30 over Zoom. Links to the meetings can be found on Twitter @uvastudco or on the Student Council website. The incoming administration will take office next week — Liu will serve as president while third-year College student Ceci Cain and second-year Batten student Ryan Cieslukowski will serve as vice president for administration and vice president for organizations, respectively.

The first meeting of the new representative body will be held Tuesday.

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