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Student Council representative body speaks out against response to vandalism of OAAA, demands free COVID-19 testing

The Representative Body passed two pieces of legislation

<p>Representatives cited the current costs of rapid tests and the <a href="https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/see-the-numbers/covid-19-in-virginia/covid-19-in-virginia-cases/"><u>presence</u></a> of high rates of COVID-19 cases in the Charlottesville area as a demonstration of the need for these tests.</p>

Representatives cited the current costs of rapid tests and the presence of high rates of COVID-19 cases in the Charlottesville area as a demonstration of the need for these tests.

Student Council’s representative body addressed recent decisions and communications coming from the University through legislation passed during Tuesday’s general body meeting. The first resolution called for a reinstatement of free COVID-19 rapid tests and a second denounced the University’s response to vandalism of Dawson’s Row.

Fourth-year Batten student Rep. Aayushma Bastola, fourth-year Architecture student Rep. Sabiya Davis and second-year Nursing student Rep. Emily Nguyen sponsored the resolution calling for the reinstatement of free rapid COVID-19 testing kits. Representatives cited the current costs of rapid tests and the presence of high rates of COVID-19 cases in the Charlottesville area as a demonstration of the need for these tests.

Rapid testing kits are currently available at the U.Va. Bookstore, Student Health and other pharmacies, and prices range from $10 to $30. In interviews with The Cavalier Daily, students have expressed concern about the lack of isolation housing and testing. There are no isolation dorms available this year except 30 beds set aside for immunocompromised individuals and those with extenuating circumstances.

The legislation also critiques the University’s removal of student access to free COVID-19 rapid tests without notifying students and asks for proactive communication, continuation of contingency plans from professors and the provision of isolation housing. 

Bastola said this issue affects both students and community members. 

“I think we can all agree that the University was providing really great service, “Bastola said. “It was extremely needed and was made great use of by students and should not have been pulled back at this crucial moment.”

This legislation passed with 15 yeas and zero nays.

The next piece of legislation entertained was sponsored by Davis, third-year College student Rep. Tyler Busch, third-year College student Rep. Violette Cadet, second-year College student Rep. Princess Olubuse-Omisore, and Gaby Hernandez, chair of the representative body and fourth-year College student. 

This legislation addressed the recent vandalism of the Office of African American Affairs Aug. 19, which was later communicated in a University-wide “general communication from Timothy Longo, vice president for security and safety and chief of police.

The resolution stresses the importance of Dawson’s Row as a space for Black students, emphasizes the representative body’s solidarity with the Black community and requests the University releases updated information and transparency regarding the investigation. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at U.Va. also condemned the vandalism via an Instagram post Aug. 20.

Busch highlighted the historic importance of this space.

“Dawson’s Row is a very historic place on Grounds — for Black students it is a safe haven,” Busch said. “When [it was vandalized], students weren’t really made aware … so we’re really calling for some clarity, especially seeing as this is a place that is very much a home and very much a personal thing for Black students here.”

This legislation passed with 16 yeas and no votes of opposition or abstention.

Ceci Cain, president of Student Council and graduate student, said she thinks the passage of this legislation demonstrates dissatisfaction with the University’s response to these issues. 

“I'm incredibly proud of the representatives … I think as a body that has a lot of legitimacy in the University, it is important for us to speak up about things when University doesn't,” Cain said. “It really speaks to the way that the entire student body is feeling that sentiment and so I'm really proud of them.”

Student Council holds general body meetings Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in Newcomb Hall.  

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