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Student Council amends budget to include funding for Ramadan meals, approves appointment of new rules and ethics chair

Members will vote to approve the final budget during next week’s meeting

With the added $3,750 from this amendment, the proposed budget now totals $317,787.
With the added $3,750 from this amendment, the proposed budget now totals $317,787.

Student Council passed a resolution amending the 2023-24 budget to include $3,750 in additional funding towards improving Ramadan meals for students. The General Body also approved fourth-year College student Matthew Docalovich as the new Rules and Ethics Chair after the previous chair, third-year College student Seamus Oliver, stepped down from the position. 

The Ramadan budget amendment was sponsored by second-year College representative Imane Akhanous and third-year College representative Yassamine Kamal, who hope the change will replace and improve the current system of providing Ramadan meals to University students. 

The budget amendment passed and will now be a part of the Student Council 2023-24 annual budget that Holly Sims, vice president for administration and graduate Batten student, presented during last week’s meeting. With the added $3,750 from this amendment, the proposed budget now totals $317,787. 

Student Council voted to table the budget for reconsideration next week — bylaws require the budget to remain unchanged for a week until it can be officially voted on. 

Ramadan — the holiest month of the year for Muslims — includes a 30 day fast from sunrise to sunset. Communities come together after sunset to eat a meal called iftar. While U.Va. Dine has provided students on meal plans with Ramadan meals through GrubHub in the past few years, Kamal said the University has not committed to continuing this program due to large amounts of food waste resulting from students not eating the meals. 

Kamal said that the food waste coming from the program was because of poor options from U.Va. Dine, which Kamal said included non-Halal options like wine sauce and jell-o, had proportion sizes that were too small for students participating in a long fasting day and were inaccessible for students living on North Grounds or off-Grounds, as the only meal pickup location was in Crossroads near first-year dorms. 

According to Akhanous, the $3,750 in funding will provide food this year for around a hundred students from local Halal vendors like Otto Turkish, Milan and Greek Hut, with an estimated cost of $12.50 for each meal. 

Sarah Goraya, outreach chair of the Muslim Student Association and third-year College student, spoke at the meeting to advocate for the budget amendment. 

“When it comes to dining accommodations that U.Va. offers…[it] is insufficient because the dining halls aren’t open late enough, and it isn’t accessible for non-meal plan owners,” Goraya said.

While the program is designed for Muslim students, any student or faculty member can take advantage of it, according to Arkhanous and Kamal. Members of MSA plan to promote a “fast-a-thon,” encouraging other non-Muslim students to try fasting and then have an iftar meal together to break that fast. 

Goraya also advocated for the program on the basis of religious equity. 

“By supporting this you're helping to provide for a historically underserved community at the University,” Goraya said. “So I'm here representing Muslims to say that I urge your support.”

The second piece of legislation that the representative body voted on during Tuesday’s meeting was to approve a new Rules and Ethics Chair — a position responsible for conducting independent reviews of Student Council members and maintaining ethics standards. 

Tichara Robertson, Student Council president and fourth-year College student, advocated for representatives to support the bill approving fourth-year College student Matthew Docalovich to this position. 

Last semester’s appointee, second-year College student Seamus Oliver, had to step down from the position since he wanted to continue with the legislative affairs committee — regulations stipulate that the Rules and Ethics Chair cannot also serve on a committee.

Robertson said Docalovich’s experience as former president of the Washington Literary and Debating Union makes him especially qualified for the position. 

“He led the first amendment process for [the Washington Society]... in four years and is good at…interpreting constitutional language that can be very vague,” Robertson said. “He has also led a team of 30 officers and so he has experience mediating conflicts with them as well as holding leadership accountable, which is very important to Rules and Ethics.”

Sims said that after advertising the open position in information sessions earlier this semester, Student Council only received one other application from a student who was already involved in another committee, making them ineligible for the position. 

This bill passed with 17 yeas, 0 nays and 1 abstention.

Student Council will meet again next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the tabled bill proposing the 2023-24 annual budget, as well as the tabled bill proposing a $2 increase to the Student Activities Fee. 


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