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Community Coalition officially enters office

Retiring members of the executive board reflected on their time in Student Council and the incoming administration shared hopes for next year

<p>Robertson, left, succeeds graduate Batten student Ceci Cain.&nbsp;</p>

Robertson, left, succeeds graduate Batten student Ceci Cain. 

Members of the newly elected Community Coalition officially entered office Sunday after being sworn in by Ceci Cain, former Student Council president and graduate Batten student. In the Rotunda transition ceremony, third-year College student Tichara Robertson took the helm as Student Council president along with fourth-year Batten student Holly Sims as Vice President for Administration and third-year College student Violette Cadet as Vice President for Organizations.

Robertson, Cadet and Sims ran together on the Community Coalition platform with common goals of student solidarity and accessibility. The three have already planned goals to support diversity and bolster student involvement within their first 100 days in office after they were elected in early march .

During the ceremony, Robertson explained her goals to continue her platform’s values during her term, including embracing diversity and advocating for minority rights. She said that she views her presidency as an opportunity to restructure the narrative surrounding Black students and promote the importance of student self-governance. 

“It is no doubt that many facets of this institution have not successfully worked to include Black and Brown, first generation, low income and queer students,” Robertson said. “It is time to create space for the number of those most marginalized at this University.”

In her campaign platform, Robertson advocated for the creation of a Black dorm experience at the University that would provide a space for all students to learn about Black history and culture. She plans to meet with the Office of African American Affairs and Housing and Residence Life to discuss next steps and will also create a poll to gauge student interest and opinion on the housing option. 

Following Robertson’s transition speech, Sims spoke to her faith in her fellow leaders and the power of building a strong team. She said she has gained valuable life and leadership abilities in her time so far on Student Council, which provided a key learning experience.

“A year and a half ago when I was offered the position of Chief of Cabinet, I don’t think I knew what I was getting myself into,” Sims said. “Now I know the best parts of my U.Va. experiences were ones that I didn’t plan for and kept me on my toes.”

Similarly to Robertson, Cadet explained that she decided to run for office because she believes in the power Student Council has to greatly improve students’ lives. She said her hopes for her time as VPO — which include connecting Contracted Independent Organizations to additional funding streams and increasing marginalized student representation in the organization branch — all work to serve the ultimate goals of increasing accessibility, building solidarity and uplifting student voices. 

“Here at U.Va., we talk a lot about how unique we are as a University and the power of student self-governance,” Cadet said. “I am so excited to work and learn with you all so that we can demonstrate the power that social governance has to change the world.” 

Before Roberston swore in the new Student Council representatives at the ceremony, Lillian Rojas, previous chair of the representative body and third-year Batten student, shared her advice for the incoming representatives, urging them to challenge the legislation they don’t believe in, ask questions and embrace diverse viewpoints. 

“We are here to represent all students, and we can only accomplish this by engaging in thoughtful discussions with one another,” Rojas said. 

Cain reflected on her goals to live up to the legacies of James Roebuck and Daisy Lundy, two Black past Student Council presidents, especially given the high demands of the position. She referenced the difficult events of the past semester — including a hate crime on Grounds involving a noose left on the Homer Statue, a racial slur written on 14th Street  and the November shooting that left three students dead and two injured — along with the University’s community’s efforts to heal and support each other.

“Many horrific things happened to our community this year,” Cain said. “The way that we mobilize to protect each other, pour love into each other, grieve together and demand that there is space and support for every person at this University constantly reminded me why I joined Student Council in the first place.”

Cain also shared the story of her time in Student Council and how building the Support and Access Services — the newest branch of Student Council, designed to create a more equitable experience for low income students at the University — mobilized her to truly believe in the power of student self-governance. 

While she said Student Council has much work to do in the future, she feels hopeful due to the group of energized and thoughtful new leaders who will continue to work to better the lives of students. 

“I do believe that the greatest demonstration of love for a place is one's commitment to change it for the better,” Cain said.

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