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Newly elected coalition for student council champions inclusivity and equality for all of U.Va.

Elected coalition also discusses increasing transparency with the student body

In the past, Council has struggled to fill all positions, but after this year’s contested election, members said they felt confident in interest towards Council.
In the past, Council has struggled to fill all positions, but after this year’s contested election, members said they felt confident in interest towards Council.

The Community Coalition, centered around “solidarity, accessibility and uplift,” will take office April 2 — leaders plan to increase student body involvement in Student Council and support diversity initiatives on Grounds.

Third-year College student Tichara Robertson will serve as Student Council President, fourth-year Batten student Holly Sims as Vice President for Administration and third-year College student Violette Cadet as Vice President for Organizations.

In their first 100 days in office, the three have goals to fill vacant spots on Student Council with diverse students and increase outreach to the student body. Robertson spoke to the importance of a Student Council that represents the will and wants of the student body. She plans to add a new position for student outreach, increase office hours and work with advisory boards to understand student interests.

“[One goal] we're currently doing in terms of recruitment, which is making sure that we're reaching out to a certain community so that they feel represented with the Student Council,” Robertson said.

In the past, Student Council has struggled to fill all positions, but after this year’s contested election, members said they felt confident in interest towards Council. Currently, nine students ran and have been elected for the 12 Arts and Sciences Council representative positions, and two have been elected to the three Engineering positions. The Architecture, Continuing and Professional Studies and Commerce positions all remain vacant, along with several Graduate school spots.

To further increase participation, Sims will focus on improving training processes and documentation in order to facilitate the transition process for new representatives. As VPA, Sims will oversee all of the inner-management of Student Council, including appointments such as the Historian and Marketing and Communications Chair. 

“I want people to go into the summer and follow through after the transition ceremony fully knowing what they're signing up for,” Sims said. 

Robertson also plans to set the precedent for the new administration by being more responsive to and reflective of the student body. She plans to create office hours for representatives where students can share questions and concerns, and set dates for open forums for student engagement.

Additionally, Robertson mentioned her desire to create a “Black Dorm Experience'' — an initiative similar to a program at Virginia Tech. The dorm would be an opportunity for all students to learn about Black history and culture. 

Similarly to the current “common living environment” for Echols, Rodman and College Science scholars in Balz-Dobie, Robertson said she wishes to create a community for marginalized students entering the University, and hopes to include other marginalized groups in the future. When first introduced, this goal was met with some controversy on social media from certain students at the University.    

“Given U.Va.'s history, it is important to me as a Black student that incoming Black students feel supported and that their voices and experiences are appreciated,” Robertson said. “This dorm experience is important to building up a student community that is more aware of Black history and embraces Black culture.” 

Currently, the University is planning on constructing additional housing intended to be used for second-years — a component of the University's goal to have all second-years living on Grounds by 2030. As a member of the Second-Year Housing Committee, Sims added that the committee could potentially discuss incorporating the Black dorm experience into these new dormitories.

“There can definitely be conversations about what [housing] looks like for a continuous versus [just] second-year experience, or to talk about the importance of continuing to build community both in first-year and upperclassmen associations,” Sims said. 

Robertson plans to meet with the Office of African American Affairs and Housing and Residence Life to discuss next steps. She will also create a poll to gauge student interest and opinion on the housing option. To fund the project, the Coalition will reach out to the Black Alumni Association, along with other University donors. 

In addition to creating a more inclusive community for marginalized students at the University, Cadet talked about creating transparency surrounding funds allocated for different events and CIOs. As VPO, Cadet’s main responsibility is serving as a liaison between Contractually Independent Organizations and Student Council and appropriating the Student Activities Fee to CIOs. 

Cadet said she hopes to utilize Council’s data science team to share funding reports that give the student body a larger stake in the work of Council. 

“I think a good way to get more buy-in is when we show people that we're actually doing the work,” Cadet said. “I really, really do believe that people will see and tend to care more about it.”

Robertson also mentioned she hopes to continue her work with Student Financial Services so they can provide better support for students coming from low income families. Since the current office is located in Carruther’s Hall, over a mile from Grounds, Robertson said she would like to see a physical structure implemented on-Grounds to increase accessibility.

All three student leaders will officially take office during the April 2 ceremony in the Rotunda.


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