Three candidates are running for Student Council president this year — third-year College students Vidar Hageman, Tenzin Lodoe and Tichara Robertson. The candidates will begin campaigning Friday, bringing distinct perspectives to key issues including minority representation, policing and gun-control, the Board of Visitors and engagement between students and administration.
All candidates must reach a minimum of 100 campaign signatures by Thursday in order to appear on the ballot. Prior to elections opening Feb. 28, The Cavalier Daily and the University Board of Elections will host a debate between the candidates Monday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
In addition to Student Council positions, representatives to the Honor Committee and University Judiciary Committee will appear on the ballot. The Honor Committee is also putting forth a historic multi-sanction constitution.
Voting will run until March 2 and results will be announced March 3. The election will be conducted online using voting service BigPulse. A more detailed calendar is available on the UBE website.
“Clear communication and understanding” — Vidar Hageman
Safety and community engagement are at the heart of Hageman’s campaign. Hageman said he thought the University’s response to the Nov. 13 shooting failed to facilitate proper communication. He hopes to remedy what he sees as a lack of cohesion within the University fueled by partisanship and extremism.
“I don't think this is political when it comes to making things more transparent, more equitable, more and more accessible,” Hageman said. “[I want to] parse those divides and keep out the interest groups and extremism that try to sow discord.”
Hageman said he hopes to increase student engagement with law enforcement. He plans to work with Timothy Longo, associate vice president for safety and security and chief of police, to increase student trust in the police. Hageman plans to connect the Student Police Accountability Board and Chief Longo through regular town hall meetings. By building a more transparent system, Hageman aims to create a more equitable police department while maintaining student safety.
“I met with Chief Longo and he said he hadn’t had any contact with students,” Hageman said. “So on day one, I'll bring in Chief Longo for accountability so students can face him, ask questions [and] grill as necessary on what he's doing to have an equitable police department but also keep people safe.”
Hageman also hopes to implement a working syllabus bank into SIS so students can get a better idea of potential course loads and costs prior to signing up for classes. He aims to establish greater transparency around endowment funds and tuition fees, which he wants to be publicly projected three years in advance.
“No student should be priced out in the middle of their education,” Hageman said.
Student Council leadership
To increase student engagement with Student Council, Hageman said he hopes to take a hands-on approach by visiting multiple student organizations each week and attending as many community service events as possible.
Hageman also wants to “be at the forefront of pushing the Department’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) efforts” and provide direct discussions and safety training for students and student groups.
Within Student Council, Hageman said he would push for monthly updates and statistics on the progress of the University’s 2030 Strategic Plan, which includes outlines for mandatory second-year housing, talent retention and facility renovations.
For Hageman, success for Student Council involves better attendance at general body meetings, stronger relationships between faculty and students and a student body that is proud of their Student Council, not apathetic.
“If we're able to bring just a couple of new ideas to the table that hadn't gotten brought up or haven't gotten pushed for, that's something that I would like to do,” Hageman said. “That would be a success for me, and for the rest of the University.”
Fix the advising system
In response to widespread complaints over the University's advising system — which does not pair students with advisors in a relevant department until they declare their major — Hageman said he would look to pair students with specialized advisors earlier on and would consider adding advisors who are not professors.
Hageman believes professors’ teaching and research duties can distract them from their advisees, and that expanding the pool of advisors for undeclared students would provide students with higher quality guidance.
“Even if it's a TA or a fourth-year — someone who has some knowledge of this process can help guide the first and second years along when they're selecting their majors and I think that's really important,” Hageman said.
“A new perspective” — Tenzin Lodoe
As a fall transfer student from Northern Virginia Community College, Lodoe hopes to use his experience as Student Body President at NVCC to be successful as University Student Council President. He plans to prioritize relationships with University administration and local government to tackle goals such as securing a voting position for the student member of the BOV and passing campus safety legislation. Additionally, he promises to interact with the student body through collaboration, communication and compassion.
“I've talked to many first-generation college students, talked to a lot of my friends who are transfer or international students,” Lodoe said. “Sometimes they feel like an outsider. By voting a transfer student as president, I think they could have a sense of feeling ‘I too, can be successful here.’”
Lodoe’s ticket includes Christopher Joseph, Class of 2025 President and second-year College student, as Vice President for Administration and Ryan Bowers, second-year College student and Student Council Appropriations Committee member, as Vice President for Organizations.
Lodoe hopes to increase student engagement with Student Council through monthly town halls, more advertisements and mid-term polls. For Lodoe, success will be measured by these polls and any increases in voter turnout in the next Student Council elections.
“I think if I'm able to take one step, one large step forward towards getting student votes, or introducing policy or passing policy for Grounds safety, that will inspire students,” Lodoe said. “My true report card if elected as Student Council President will be the following year and whether or not voter turnout has increased substantially.”
Another support initiative includes implementing the use of the Headspace meditation app as a pilot program to improve holistic wellness on Grounds. TimelyCare and CAPS already offer mental health services, which Lodoe says are effective, but he sees Headspace as a way to offer preventive care. He aims to offer Headspace appointments at a reduced cost through a test program in order to test if demand is high enough to offer the service to all students.
Lodoe wants to focus on cooperation with state legislators to push for a student vote on the Board of Visitors. Currently, the student representative to the Board offers advice and communicates the student perspective, but is a nonvoting member.
“I think bringing the vote to the student member of the BOV is the solution to many issues that the student body faces,” Lodoe said. “If we truly want true self governance we need as students a voice on the most powerful authorizing body at the college.”
Lodoe said his plans would require a great deal of trust and communication with administration, which he hopes to make a top priority through frequent meetings and conversations.
He would also look to implement a PILOT program — like the one recently called for by Student Council — that requires the University to pay the Charlottesville government in lieu of taxes. He said such a program would help to improve local education and housing options.
Following the Nov. 13 shooting, Lodoe said that the administration generally responded well to the community’s needs, but more could have been done, such as canceling all finals. As state legislators move to create gun legislation — such as SB 1484, an attempt to ban firearms at Virginia higher education institutions before being tabled in the House — Lodoe hopes to see more minority groups being included in these conversations over legislation
Lodoe reaffirmed safety as a central priority and said he will continue to advocate for student groups to have a voice in gun regulations on Grounds as a key part of his platform.
“I want to collaborate with state legislators and with minority CIOs to introduce a policy that has the consent and all the viewpoints of all stakeholders involved,” Lodoe said.
Echoing recurring calls from student environmental advocacy groups for the University to divest from fossil fuels, Lodoe voiced support for the movement and promised to use his stakeholder connections to take action against such companies.
“Working with and for everyone at U.Va.” — Tichara Robertson
Robertson is running for president to further the work she has done as Student Council Chief of Support and Access Services — an executive board position charged with providing student services — and representative for the College of Arts and Sciences. Robertson cited financial accessibility and minority experiences as key platform points and hopes to improve accountability and engagement between Student Council and the student body.
Robertson will be running on a ticket with Holly Sims, Chief of Cabinet/Lead Policy Advocate and fourth-year Batten student, as Vice President for Administration and Violette Cadet, Chair pro tempore and third-year Batten student, as Vice President for Organizations.
With experience as the president of the Minority Rights Coalition — an umbrella group which oversees ten other minority community organizations such as the Asian Student Union, the Black Student Alliance and the Cultural Organization for Latin Americans — Robertson hopes to create more identity-based communities, including a first-year dorm option specific to Black students.
“First year is really critical to developing one's sense of belonging… and I think for Black students this is especially hard because their communities aren't always within immediate spaces of residence,” Robertson said. “I think bringing that opportunity for Black students to create community with each other in the first year is really important.”
Robertson plans to advocate for additional study spaces beyond the Multicultural Student Center for marginalized students to come together in community, and said that Black students and Native American students have spent years advocating for student centers to no avail.
Robertson also plans to lobby for increased in-person racial minority and LGBTQ+ mental health services through the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. She said TimelyCare has helped provide students with diverse healthcare providers but noted that virtual appointments can be a deterrent for some students.
“Community, especially of recent times, has been vital to making U.Va. a safe and welcoming space, and Student Council needs to advocate for and on behalf of these ongoing initiatives,” Robertson said.
Student Financial Services covers 100 percent of demonstrated need, calculating expected family contribution through federal guidelines and University policies. Roberston, however, will demand that SFS recalculate the existing definition of EFC in order to make evaluations more comprehensive. She said she will also work towards supporting U.Va. Mutual Aid — an organization working to create a more equitable University — and its ongoing initiative to create a store with free food, as well as implement classes teaching financial skills such as tax filing and obtaining food stamps.
“We're seeing sort of a shift in what students can pay for and there are just more financial barriers to students now,” Robertson said. “It's time to finally address what demonstrated needs [are] and change the standards to best fit students.”
Additionally, Robertson seeks to increase student engagement with financial services by adding SFS locations on-Grounds. Currently, the SFS office is located about a mile from the University, across from the Barracks Road shopping center, making it difficult for students to directly interact with the agency.
Another effort Robertson will make to increase accessibility is looking into the long-term sustainability of the Support and Access Services Branch. The SAS Branch is a collection of services offered through Student Council which aid low-income students through free legal aid, low-cost transportation, loaner textbooks, outpatient mental health grants and more.
“As we work to institutionalize the SAS Branch as an integral function of Student Council and at the University, it is important to us that it remains in the hands of students,” Robertson said. “In the spirit of self-governance, the SAS Branch should continue to exist under the philosophy of community support — students must always support students.”
Besides diversity and financial accessibility initiatives, Robertson plans to create a new representative leadership position on Student Council to facilitate communication between the representative body and University faculty members. The position will ensure that representatives are regularly meeting and engaging with students, staff and faculty. Robertson will also implement regular office hours so that students can speak directly with Student Council representatives.
“As opposed to absolving these responsibilities to other leadership positions, this new position will allow for an intense focus on Representative accountability to the community,” Robertson said “The Representative Body will always work best when it is directly working with and for everyone at UVA.”
Robertson also said that minority students are traditionally not given a voice in larger institutions at the University. To combat this, she plans to reach out to marginalized communities and invite them to become more involved with Student Council.
Additionally, Robertson will work to address Student Legal Services in reference to how it serves the student body. She plans to readdress the makeup of the SLS Advisory Board and work to codify SLS procedures, among other goals.
“As we are now in 2023, it is time to readdress the structure and resources provided by the office so that SLS can best support the legal needs of current students,” Robertson said.
With polls opening Feb. 28, members of the University community will have the chance to cast their votes for the candidate with whose platform they most align.
Questions for these candidates or their policy positions? Submit a question for The Cavalier Daily and University Board of Elections debate between presidential candidates and VPA and VPO candidates here.