A statement released Tuesday by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at U.Va. concerning Ceci Cain, Student Council presidential candidate and fourth-year College student, has prompted responses from across the University community, including Cain herself.
Cain is currently Student Council’s vice president for administration, where she has worked to secure insurance grants for low-income students, allocate funding to multicultural student groups and remove police from mental health crises, along with other organizers. Cain is running in a contested race against third-year College student David Alari.
Signed by the NAACP at U.Va.’s Presidents Council, the letter accused Cain of “inherently misleading” Black students, writing that they would not stand for “destructive behaviors” or Cain’s alleged “weaponization of Black students’ concerns.”
“Cain does not seek to work toward the social, political and material gain of the Black community,” the letter reads.
In response, Cain wrote that she has “never agreed with the sentiment that anyone should vote for [her]” solely because she is a Black student herself, particularly given that her opponent is also Black.
“I have spent countless hours working for Black students at this University — period,” Cain said. “I am sick and tired of students who don’t do the work criticizing the way Black students move and survive at this University.”
The letter also inaccurately alleges that Cain took credit for increasing funding to the Black Presidents Council during a debate hosted by The Cavalier Daily Monday night. Cain made no such claim during the debate, though she did credit the “coalition work” of the BPC — along with other groups — in helping to organize the University Networks of Care pilot program.
Finally, the letter also claimed that Cain had been “unresponsive, disorganized, and unhelpful” in her administrative responsibilities with Student Council. In response to this, Cain pointed to the scale of the VPA role, as well as the commitment of this unpaid extracurricular position.
“I am a volunteer who runs an organization of 300 people, trying to problem solve for all 27,000 students at the University,” Cain wrote. “It's difficult to change an entire organization while running it operationally … I would like to take any feedback as an opportunity for growth.”
A central tenet of Cain’s platform is working to secure compensation for low-income student leaders, many of whom work more than 30 hours a week in addition to a full-time class schedule. Cain hopes that paying student leaders will alleviate some of this burden, and encourage low-income students to take leadership positions.
Sarandon Ellliot, fourth-year College student and director of U.Va. Mutual Aid, came to Cain’s defense, citing Cain’s “instrumental” work in organizing for “justice and liberation” on Grounds. A recipient of the NAACP at U.Va.’s Student Humanitarian Award this year, Elliot referred to the letter as “unfair” and “dishonest,” adding that she plans to return her award.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Elliott enumerated the ways in which Cain has been an advocate for Black students on Grounds, citing Cain’s involvement in organizing a protest against the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict as just one example. Several student groups, including the Black Student Alliance, Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, Students for Justice in Palestine at U.Va. and Young Democratic Socialists for America at U.Va., helped organize the protest.
“Without Ceci, I don’t know what that would have looked like,” Elliott said. “Every day, Ceci blows me away with just how much she puts into her work — her work ethic and the care and detail.”
Elliott noted that Cain was one of the first organizers she met when she transferred to the University in 2019, and has worked with Cain since to better the lives of Black students at the University. To suggest that Cain had co-opted efforts, Elliott said, is “absurd.”
Both Cain and Elliott wrote in their responses that they learned that the statement released by the NAACP at U.Va. had not come from the full President’s Council, but the presidents and vice presidents alone.
“I do know several people on the NAACP executive board, and when I reached out to them, asking them for a little bit of clarity — because I think a lot of us were very confused … they were all like, ‘yeah, we’re just as confused as you,’” Elliott said.
In a statement circulated to members obtained by The Cavalier Daily, Black Muslims at U.Va. said that while they would not be endorsing either candidate in the race, they wanted to correct misinformation circulating about Cain and acknowledge the letter’s “false information.”
“Although we do believe that we should be critical of candidates who seek positions of power, we should also be fully informed of a candidate’s history, involvement and actions before speaking on a candidate,” the letter read. “Our organization will do everything in our power not to repeat this.”
As of press time, the NAACP at U.Va. has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Voting opened Wednesday at 10 a.m. and will close Friday at 4 p.m. Students will receive an email with a personalized voting link Wednesday or can click on the orange “Vote” button on the University Board of Elections’ website.
This article will be updated.