Fourth-year College student Ceci Cain was sworn in as Student Council President in a transition ceremony between old and new executive members Saturday afternoon. Cain won 73.4 percent of the vote in March and ran on a campaign promising to organize, advocate and reclaim.
Prior to her new role, Cain served as vice president for administration under the New Era administration and chair of the Financial Accessibility Committee. Cain is also involved in the University community outside of Student Council, acting as a resident advisor and a member the Black Student Alliance.
Cain began her presidential address to the crowd by referencing Linda Quarles, who was the first female president of BSA.
“She’s on my mind so much because — in many ways — I am her,” Cain said. “I joined Student Council my first year because I was desperately searching for community.”
Cain noted that she has experienced the same obstacles that many Black and low-income students face — such as finding insurance and balancing a job and education at the same time. Cain said she hopes to empower other students like herself during her time as president.
“I envisioned a Student Council that was harnessed and guided by the ‘other,’” Cain said. “At U.Va. — as is true at most universities, there is a tacit — and sometimes explicit — understanding that the working class student — the other — is not deserving of the same U.Va. experience as the average student this University was created for.”
Cain also rejected the notion that these students should not have the same experience as others.
“I do not – and cannot – accept the assumption that these inequities are fair,” Cain concluded.
Cain also swore in third-year College students Jaden Evans and Riley Reynolds, who will serve as vice president for administration and vice president for organizations, respectively.
Gaby Hernandez, outgoing chair of the representative body and third-year College student, also shared some of the outgoing administration’s achievements. Hernandez highlighted the Support and Access Services branch, which has provided $350,000 to date to meet essential needs, as well as lobbying efforts and representative body legislative items.
Personally, Hernandez said she was most proud of Student Council’s successful negotiations that secured a $4 million Aetna insurance grant pilot program that will help eliminate insurance debt for low-income students. Student Council advocated for the grants in collaboration with Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, and efforts included a formal resolution calling for a portion of the University’s proposed tuition increase to subsidize insurance grants and direct meetings with administration.
“Marginalized communities are marginalized because they are systemically disempowered and removed from resources, info and power,” Hernandez said. “So, I have practiced passing the mic and building collective power — instead of this ‘savior’ mindset.”
Following Hernandez, Holly Sims, chief of cabinet and third-year College student, presented awards to the best agency or agency leader in each branch. Fourth-year College student Krit Chanwong and third-year College student Meghan Gerety won the award for administration, while third-year Education student Kaylah Muhammad won the award for organizations. Sarandon Elliott, director of U.Va. Mutual Aid and fourth-year College student, received an award for her work with Support and Access Services, and third-year Commerce student Chloe Estrada and fourth-year College student Vivian Garcia shared the award for cabinet. First-year Engineering student Christopher Joseph won the award for outstanding first-year.
Adrian Mamaril, outgoing chief of Support and Access Services and third-year Commerce student, then discussed the role of the SAS branch during its pilot year. Mamaril noted the increasing trend of direct action among student governments nationwide. Since its creation in March 2021, the branch has purchased 600 tickets to help students travel home during breaks and provided 24 students with Aetna insurance grants.
Mamaril concluded his speech with a piece of advice from Liu.
“Students know what students need best,” Mamaril quoted. “This action — as a basis of our work — has allowed us to be more responsive and more innovative. SAS demonstrates that students closest to a collective need ought to be the closest to any resource distribution efforts.”
Abel Liu, outgoing Student Council president and fourth-year College student, then reflected on his time with Student Council. Liu noted that in line with the increasing trend in direct action among student governments described by Mamaril, Student Council now attracts members who truly want to advocate for specific communities.
Liu also emphasized the difficulties of the role, urging others to recognize the high personal cost that comes with implementing change.
“We need to start taking better accountability for the ways in which we treat each other even when we’re negotiating, bargaining and organizing,” Liu said.
Liu also noted that Student Council’s capabilities have increased dramatically in the past few years.
“Your foundation is literally unimaginable from my frame of reference,” Liu said to the incoming administration.
Cain’s administration will hold its first meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Newcomb Hall South Meeting Room.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled Adrian Mamaril's name and incorrectly stated that Krit Chanwong is a second-year instead of a fourth-year. The article has been updated to reflect these corrections.