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Inside the race for president of Fourth Year Trustees

Voting opened Wednesday, March 2 at 10 a.m. and will close Friday, March 4 at 4 p.m.

<p>Beyond the planning of class events, the Trustees have recently expanded their scope to include “social issues and student concerns,” per its website.</p>

Beyond the planning of class events, the Trustees have recently expanded their scope to include “social issues and student concerns,” per its website.

This year’s race for president of Fourth Year Trustees is contested between two candidates, third-year College student Anisa Mohamed and third-year Commerce student Sophia Liao — Liao is the current president of Third Year Council and is running on a ticket alongside Lara Arif, third-year Batten student and current vice president of Third Year Council.

The Fourth Year Trustees act as the Class Council for fourth years, fostering community through service and events such as the Lighting of the Lawn and Valedictory Exercises. Beyond the planning of class events, the Trustees have recently expanded their scope to include “social issues and student concerns,” per its website. The executive board of the Fourth Year Trustees includes 16 individuals who manage committees and projects, with the president acting as the head of the executive board.

Chloe Lyda, current president of Fourth Year Trustees and fourth-year College student, and Emma Keller, current vice president of Fourth Year Trustees and fourth-year Education student, will continue to serve the remaining five years of their six year term after graduation.

Sophia Liao

Sophia Liao is the current president of Third Year Council, having served as president of Second Year Council and Diversity Chair her first year. She is also the Finance Chair for University Democrats, a language consultant for VISAS and a member of the Washington Literary and Debating Society.

Liao said that she felt compelled to run for reelection based on the success of this year’s Third Year Council.

“This past year, we've never had a more efficient and effective Council,” Liao said. “We oversaw 34 events just this year so far [with] record turnout at them … and we just want to continue that energy forward.”

Some of these events include serving free muffins on the South Lawn and hosting dogs on Grounds to relieve anxiety for students during finals season,

“[I appreciate] the power of Class Council to be able to create joy in both large events and small events,” Liao said.

Among her experience on Class Council for the last three years, Liao listed centering diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of events and Class Council operations, increasing outreach to third years and CIOs as highlights. Liao’s endorsements include Planned Parenthood Generation Action, the National Alliance on Mental Illness on Grounds and the Organization of Young Filipino Americans.

Liao stated unity and engagement as the two key goals of her current campaign.

“Our class has faced a lot,” Liao said. “We went home the first year to a spring break that we never really came back from — but I want to make sure that we still are able to leave U.Va. feeling like we love the people here.”

To bring together the class, Liao emphasized the importance of rekindling traditions such as Third-Year Ceremony, a gathering designed for third years to celebrate and put on their class rings. Previously named “Ring Ceremony,” Class Council decided to rename the exercise to shift the focus from the class rings themselves to overall celebrations, due to the inaccessibility of class rings for many students based on high prices — rings range from $434 to up to $1030. 

“We still had a record number of ring scholarships given out,” Liao said. “We solicited donations from all across the University and ended up with 54 rings, giving some people the opportunity to participate in the tradition.”

Looking forward to fourth-year traditions such as graduation and valediction, Liao said that she hopes to work with the graduation committee to choose meaningful events and speakers, such as the Alumni Association, a group designed to strengthen both the connections between alumni and between alumni and the University.

“We want to make sure that we're connecting people with career opportunities and alumni relationships, but also the mental wellness support that's required after you graduate,” Liao said.

Liao spoke to the importance of educating students about the University’s relationship with enslavement, particularly Thomas Jefferson’s ownership and use of enslaved laborers in the school’s construction and maintenance, and the existence of the Confederate Cemetary on McCormick Road.

“I want to make sure that we as students are still able to learn about the context and the space we take up as a predominantly white institution and a community that we've taken so much from,” Liao said.

Summing up her platform, Liao said her goal is to “leave U.Va a better place.”

“I think so many people at U.Va. [have] had a tough journey,” Liao said. “But we'll make it through and next year, I think people will start feeling sentimental about the time they've had here, and hopefully that means they're going to be willing to give back to the community and support it in any way they can.”

Anisa Mohamed

Mohamed served as vice president of First and Second Year Council and is the current chair of diversity, equity and inclusion for Third Year Council. She is also involved in Student Council, the Black Student Alliance, Muslim Institute for Leadership and Empowerment, University Programs Council and serves on the Housing and Residence Life Committee of Multiculturalism and as a residential advisor.

Mohamed said that she feels prepared for the responsibilities of serving as Trustee president  after her previous work on Class Council and listed integral aspects of her platform as “advocacy, transparency and class unity,” as well as “community, equity and empowerment.”

“U.Va doesn't really match the student energy a lot of the time,” Mohamed said. “I think as student leaders we have the responsibility to be there for our communities and speak out on topics that are oftentimes glossed upon behind closed doors.”

Mohamed highlighted her “passion project,” a “Cookies and Culture” event that gathered over 20 multicultural groups on Grounds to improve accessibility to these clubs among students of color. 

“Once we congregate, we can collaborate more effectively,” Mohamed said. “We can talk as groups and really just get to understand where everyone's coming from and understand the different perspectives from different multicultural groups on Grounds.”

Overall, Mohamed emphasized the importance of power in numbers and becoming accountable for change.

“I've dedicated myself every day at U.Va. to community, equity and inclusion, and really just working to provide those three core values into everything that I do,” Mohamed said. “If elected, I hope to continue doing that, because we deserve it.”

In a since-modified campaign post on Instagram, Mohamed listed a plethora of previous successes and objectives for a future term, including her involvement in campaigning for the University to adopt a credit/no credit/general credit grading during the pandemic. The effort to enact a credit/no credit/general credit grading option was a joint effort led by the Young Democratic Socialists at U.Va., the Minority Rights Coalition, First Generation/Low Income Partnership at U.Va. and Student Council. Class Council leadership did send a survey to class listservs to gather student input into the change and signed on to a statement of support for the switch.

Mohamed also said she hoped to grow her “previous $10,000” plus Mutual Aid campaign and increase funding for the Mutual Aid Free Store. Mohamed also listed “Expanded the role of Mutual Aid” as a success. Mutual Aid is housed wholly under Student Council’s jurisdiction. The program, directed by fourth-year College student Sarandon Elliott, provides no-strings-attached grants to students for resources in times of crisis. Class Council does not have the jurisdiction to aid in running Mutual Aid — it can support the efforts through external fundraising, but is not directly involved in the distribution of funding.

On Saturday, Mohamed released a new post on Instagram contextualizing the student organizing efforts and noting her involvement in advocating for them. Mohamed now lists “highlight[ing] and driv[ing] forward Student Council Student Access Services initiatives” as a major goal, and wrote that she “spotlighted and incorporated U.Va. Mutual Aid into events to combine resources and support students in need” as well as “helped advocate” for the spring grading change. 

Mohamed’s campaign is endorsed by the Indian Student Association and the Muslim Student Association.

Voting for University-wide elections opened Wednesday at 10 a.m. and will close Friday at 4 p.m.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Lyda and Keller would relinquish their positions as President and Vice President of Fourth Year Trustees at the end of this year. All Trustee terms are six years. The article has been updated to reflect this.