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Student Council presidential candidates share visions for the future of U.Va.

The voting period will begin Wednesday March 2 at 10 a.m. and will end Friday March 4 at 4 p.m.

<p>Ceci Cain, left, and David Alari, right, are running for Student Council president — Cain is the current vice president of administration on Student Council, and Alari has been involved with Class Council and the Lighting of the Lawn Committee.&nbsp;</p>

Ceci Cain, left, and David Alari, right, are running for Student Council president — Cain is the current vice president of administration on Student Council, and Alari has been involved with Class Council and the Lighting of the Lawn Committee. 


Student Council presidential candidates third-year College student David Alari and fourth-year College student Ceci Cain will begin campaigning Friday ahead of student elections. Alari is running as a solo candidate, while Cain is running on a ticket that includes third-year College students Jaden Evans and Riley Reynolds, who are running for vice president for administration and vice president for organizations, respectively.

A presidential debate hosted by The Cavalier Daily, the University Elections Board and the Democracy Initiative will take place next Monday, Feb. 28, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Voting for all student elections — which includes candidates for Student Council, Honor Council, University Judiciary Committee and Class Council — will open Wednesday March 2 at 10 a.m. and close Friday March 4 at 4 p.m.

“A Leader That Can Be for Everybody” — David Alari

Alari is running for Student Council’s highest office, citing an intent to do what he can to benefit “the common good.” Alari has never served on Student Council, but said he believes that any University student is qualified to run regardless of direct experience with Student Council. 

A transfer student who arrived at the University this fall, Alari has been a part of Third Year Class Council, University Programs Council and the 2021 Lighting of the Lawn Committee.

“I believe every U.Va. student is qualified to run for Student Council president, it is just a matter of who's willing to come out of their comfort zone and just be about change and create change for the benefit of all U.Va. students,” Alari said.

Alari made explicit that if given the opportunity to serve, he would work diligently not to serve particular interests, instead listening to any student that came into his office. 

Regarding the fact that he is running without a full ticket, Alari said he is happy to work with whoever the vice president for operations and the vice president for administration turn out to be.

“I'm open to working with anyone, because I mean, that is what the job is supposed to be,” Alari said. “It's not just working with the other [VPs], I'm almost working for the whole U.Va. [student body].” 

Alari’s core campaign commitments include bringing awareness to student mental health — especially acknowledging the unique pressures of performing as a student at a competitive university — and broadening opportunities for self-expression and creativity among students.

As a transfer student, Alaris said it’s particularly important that governing students ensure that University community members of all backgrounds are able to form meaningful relationships, transition seamlessly into life on-Grounds and find venues through which they can share their ideas and express themselves.

Mental health

Student mental health is a cornerstone of Alari’s platform, and Alari specifically voiced the risks that attending an elite institution brings to students’ mental health. Without someone to talk to and proper counseling and psychological services, Alari worries that stress from things like midterms and quizzes can lead to unhealthy behaviors.

“Mental health is an issue that is important regardless of your ideology, it's something that's very important to be able to address and see how we can take mental health seriously,” Alari said.

When asked to put forth specific ideas on how to address mental health issues for students, Alari said that he would not “scrap whatever is working right now,” but that his goal would be to make what does work even better for all University students. Currently, the University offers Counseling and Psychological Services to actively enrolled students. CAPS provides individual therapy, group therapy, psychiatric services in person and telehealth services through TimelyCare, an online mental health support interface.

Diversity and self-expression

Alari said that he believes the importance of diversity extends beyond the confines of a University context and is an integral part of the overall human experience.

“I really want to see diversity grow at U.Va. and also, you know, having students from different parts of the country and different parts of the world feeling like they are being represented, especially in Student Council,” Alari said.

Per demographic data from the University’s Diversity Dashboard, which has data through 2020, 55.67 percent of undergraduate students on Grounds are white, while 6.74 percent of undergraduates are Black, 16.16 percent are Asian American and 6.73 percent are Hispanic.

In Virginia, 20 percent of Americans identify as Black or African American either alone or in combination with another race. 10.5 percent of Virginians are Hispanic or Latino, and 8.8 percent are Asian, either solely or in combination with another race.  

Alari also believes that it is important that people at the University have the freedom to speak out and be who they want to be without fear of criticism. 

Alari ties the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to an increased need for avenues for self-expression, adding that the friction caused by the pandemic reinforces the need among students to be themselves.

“I think U.Va. Grounds is going to be a more tremendous place for us all, because — I mean right now we are living in a time of friction, we are going through a lot during the pandemic, like taking classes,” Alari said. “This is a time of friction — we have to just really just be ourselves. And also not just being ourselves, we should be able to appreciate ourselves better.”

Addressing the ongoing pandemic

When it comes to the University’s pandemic policies, Alari said that the University is doing a good job on preventing COVID-19 cases and that he will not scrap what is working. On Tuesday, the University announced it would be lifting the indoor mask mandate for University-owned spaces including office buildings, IM-Rec facilities and venues effective March 21 — the mandate will remain in place in classrooms, U.Va. Health facilities and University Transit Services. Until then, students are required to wear masks in all University buildings. 

The University also required COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff working and living on Grounds. Following an executive order from Governor Glenn Youngkin — which prohibited state agencies from requiring that employees be vaccinated as a condition of employment — the University rescinded this mandate for faculty and staff Jan. 19. Over 99 percent of students already comply with vaccine and booster requirements. 

“I know what is working and I wouldn't go there right now,” Alari said, later adding that Student Council as an institution is working, but that he wouldn’t say it is working well.

One issue that Alari sees with Student Council is that he believes many students don’t know what the organization is or that it exists to advocate on their behalf. If elected, Alari said he would make sure every student knows precisely what Student Council is and the function of the body. 

Student well-being

As a transfer student, Alari shared his concerns regarding the integration of transfer students, non-traditional students and international students into the fabric of the University, which can adversely impact the wellbeing of such individuals. Transfer students make up approximately 10 percent of the student body, while international students make up roughly 9.5 percent. When he showed up to Grounds, Alari said that he struggled to find organizations to be a part of. 

“My first week I was trying to look for different organizations to be a part of because I feel like that is the only way I can be able to meet people and also serve,” Alari said. “For transfer students, international students and non-traditional students, they can be left out of what is going on and I feel they have a creative voice to contribute to what is going on.”

When asked if he had any specific plans to get these students more involved, Alari said that he had spoken with some transfer students and that he came away from the conversation learning that they feel left out. Alari was particularly concerned for students that transfer to University in the spring, coming in at a time when many students have already made friends.

“So those transfers that come in the spring and even the ones that come in the fall, there has to be programming that is actually bringing them together and their well-being and all that,” Alari said. 

Alari tied the issue of integrating students more seamlessly into the University community to his concerns about the mental health of students, drawing a connection between feeling alone and feeling depressed.

“I mean, if you feel like you are by yourself a lot, if you transfer from a different part of the country, there's a chance that you're going to be depressed and all that and that leads to mental health,” Alari said.

Creativity and Innovation

In his platform, Alari listed creativity and innovation as one of the issues he wishes to focus on. 

Alari said he thinks that students at the University are very creative, but that they don’t see enough creativity and innovation amidst classes and academic pressures, which stifles their own passions.  

“I believe that every U.Va. student is very creative — we are innovators,” Alari said. “We just need a challenge to be able to come out and just be ourselves.”

When asked if there were specific things that could be done to foster a creative and innovative environment on-Grounds, Alari stated a desire to create an environment where students don’t feel judged.  

“Creative U.Va. students, whatever you want to create, just create it,” Alari said. “We all have to be able to meet and sit down together and discuss how we can make U.Va. a better place for all.”

“The Collective Campaign” — Ceci Cain

An accelerated masters candidate in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, Cain has served as Student Council’s vice president for administration since March 2021 and was the chair of the Financial Accessibility Committee prior to her current role. Cain is also involved in a number of other organizations outside of Student Council, acting as a Resident Advisor and a member of the Political Action Committee of the Black Student Alliance.

“I chose to run because I didn't ever see myself represented in genuine positions of power at U.Va.,” Cain said. “I feel like communities that are the most vulnerable [at the] University have been screaming about what they want and need for years.”

If elected, Cain hopes to help student groups utilize Student Council’s resources and contacts.

“I'm running because I see a really unique opportunity in the resources Student Council has,” Cain said. “We have … really unique access to administrators, funding and ability to coalition across the University — a credibility a lot of other student groups don't have. I see a really unique opportunity in coupling that with genuine organizing work on Grounds and getting needs met for marginalized students.”

Cain, Evans and Reynolds’ platform focuses on three central tenets — advocate, organize and reclaim. The ticket hopes to continue the work they have already done with Student Council, including supporting the recently-created Support and Access Services branch and other service-based initiatives. Support and Access Services was approved in a constitutional referendum last year and provides direct resources like food, textbooks and mental health services to students through grants and funding.

One project Cain hopes to further is Student Council’s Capital Campaign, a project that aims to procure an endowment that will serve as a long-term source of funding for Support and Access Services and an ongoing effort to pay student leaders. 

Both an Echols and Jefferson Scholar, Evans previously served as director of finance for U.Va. Mutual Aid. U.Va. Mutual Aid is a service that collects and distributes financial support that does not require qualifications to the University community, providing funding for food, educational materials, medical expenses and more. Mutual Aid has distributed over $110,000 as of November 2020 and continues to raise funds with the goals of ensuring that all students have the material resources they need as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the University community.

As a transfer student from the University of Richmond, Reynolds believes she adds a valuable perspective to the position of vice president for organizations. 

“I'm kind of uniquely situated for [the role],” Reynolds said. “I [have] seen how previous schools have run their student activities fairs or how they handle their CIOs or student organizations.”


The advocate portion of the campaign involves continuing the push for the University to take serious calls to action arising from various student groups, and to work alongside these groups in building coalitions to accomplish these goals. Cain sees coordination with Contracted Independent Organizations — organizations that are independent from the University and whose members are at least 51 percent students — as central to the “advocate” tenet.

“One of my biggest goals is empowering small groups and giving them direct access and resources that Student Council has, and not gatekeeping those resources,” Cain said. 

Cain intends to ensure voter accessibility by working with administrators to cancel all classes on Election Day next year. Cain said Student Council’s Legislative Affairs Agency would then work with the Provost’s office to make this policy permanent in coming years.

Cain also seeks to lower the cost of on-Grounds housing by working jointly with the Community Engagement and Financial Accessibility Agencies. Students are currently required to live on-Grounds their first year and often look for off-Grounds housing their remaining three years, which drives up the price of the already-scarce Charlottesville real estate. By making on-Grounds housing more affordable and mandated for second-year students, Cain hopes to lower the cost of housing in the Charlottesville area while also reducing the cost of attendance for students.

Another key aspect of Cain’s “advocate” tenet is divestment from fossil fuels and prison labor. DivestUVA is an organization that has led the push for the University to divest from fossil fuels, a cause which Cain wants Student Council’s Sustainability Agency to help with.

Cain also hopes to implement policies to help low-income students — she believes the University fails to accurately listen to students and enact change based on their feedback. 

“A lot of administrators don't actually sit down with the most vulnerable students on Grounds and hear about what their issues are,” Cain said.

She intends to advocate for the end of account holds, which occur when a student cannot pay a Student Health or bookstore bill by a certain deadline. The resulting academic hold prevents the student from enrolling in courses, switching courses and accessing their transcript. 

Overall, Cain hopes to lower the cost of attendance at the University by continuing to provide programs to assist students in costs that are not covered by “100 percent need-based aid” — including textbooks, food, hygiene products, laundry and printing.


The “organize” portion of the platform aims to examine the ways Student Council can work with partners to organize for the change that student organizations — especially marginalized groups — are seeking. Cain emphasized the lack of funding for specific groups on Grounds.

“We know that cultural organizations make up about 20 percent of our CIOs and only get about 10 percent of CIO funding,” Cain said. “One of the things I want to do is make that funding process more equitable and get more funding to cultural CIOs.”

Cain plans to create a new Advisor for Equity and Incentives position to coordinate with the Appropriations Committee to alter the Student Activities Fee guidelines and allocation process. To further increase funding for cultural organizations, Cain hopes to eliminate the current reimbursement model of funding, in which student leaders must make substantial upfront payments before receiving reimbursement from Student Council.

“One of the biggest barriers is that there's a lot of bureaucracy around how you access money,” Cain said. “If you're a low-income student and you run a cultural organization, you cannot pay a vendor $500 upfront for food or for equipment for an event and then get reimbursed by Student Council.”

Reynolds and Evans also support the effort to pay student leaders, as well as providing them with more spaces to work. Led by Evans, Student Council’s Finance Committee would work with student leaders and administrative partners to implement a compensation system for low-income student leaders. One policy Reynolds emphasized in this effort was the “invite the VPO” program, which would offer any CIO the opportunity to have Reynolds attend its meetings. The program aims to make the VPO office more accessible to CIOs.

Cain also seeks to increase programming specifically designed for marginalized student groups in conjunction with Orientation Leaders and the Office of Admissions. She intends to tailor the programs specifically to first-generation, low-income, transfer and international students. Cain noted that her efforts to recruit other minority leaders enabled her to better advocate for those groups.

“I'm proud that I recruited a majority-minority leadership body and I think the last year we've really seen it be effective to have people who are genuinely embedded in groups doing advocacy work for them,” Cain said. 


As part of the “reclaim” portion of her campaign, Cain intends to secure scholarships for descendants of enslaved laborers, noting her vision to pursue equity and anti-racism at the University.

“Oftentimes, when we commit to things like diversity, equity and inclusion, we don't actually talk about what that means for an institution that was not only founded by enslaved people, but founded in a way that exploits like Black people in this community,” Cain said.

Cain also hopes to carry out plans to remove police from mental health crises through the University Networks of Care program — a program begun by Abel Liu, current student council president and fourth-year College student. The UNOC Ad-Hoc Committee is a proposed community-based crisis response system that will operate Thursday through Sunday beginning in fall 2022. The 24-hour program will replace the University Police Department with paid EMTs and skilled post-graduate student counselors in mental health crises, inventions with intoxicated individuals and aggravated situations within UPD jurisdiction. 

The final aspect of Cain’s platform is lobbying for increased minority counselors, staff, faculty and students.

“A lot of times, being Black at U.Va. seems like you are the exception, which should not be true at a state university with the resources that U.Va. has,” Cain said. 

Ultimately, Cain said she hopes to empower marginalized student groups if elected.

“We want to reclaim Student Council, reclaim student self-governance and reclaim centers of power at the University for marginalized students,” Cain said.


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