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Previewing the Spring 2024 Elections — divestment, student government positions on the ballot

Voting will begin at 9 a.m. Feb. 26 and be open until 11:59 p.m. Feb. 28

<p>The U.Va Apartheid Divest Referendum, the only referendum in this year’s elections, was <a href=";cv=cbox_latest"><u>announced</u></a> at a Students for Justice in Palestine teach-in event Feb. 6.&nbsp;</p>

The U.Va Apartheid Divest Referendum, the only referendum in this year’s elections, was announced at a Students for Justice in Palestine teach-in event Feb. 6. 

University students can vote on a number of elected positions within student self-governance organizations, beginning Monday morning. The University Board of Elections organized and will hold the University-wide election, which also includes a referendum sponsored by seven student organizations. The referendum demands that the University audit its investment portfolio to identify any connections to companies engaging in or profiting from what the sponsors call “the State of Israel’s apartheid regime and acute violence against Palestinians.”


Voting will be carried out electronically, and the form will be sent to students’ University emails once the polls open. The form will be personalized to students to only include the school- and year-specific elections they are eligible to vote in, and the entire process should take no more than five minutes. Voting for elections with only one winner will be carried out in a ranked-choice system, while voting in elections with multiple winners will allow for multiple unranked selections. The referendum on this year’s ballot will be a simple yes or no vote.

Last year’s elections saw a slight increase in voter turnout across the board. That election also included the referendum proposing the Honor Committee’s adoption of a multi-sanction system, of which 88.7 percent of voters voted in favor. 

Luke Lamberson, UBE chair and fourth-year Commerce student, said that the UBE plans to spend over $2,000 on a number of initiatives to encourage voting next week. This will include handing out donuts and a raffle system where simply voting makes one eligible to win prizes including TVs, gift cards or customized basketball jerseys. Lamberson said that while he thinks that the referendum will motivate a lot of people to vote, it is also important to vote for the elected positions too.

“Everyone, no matter what school they’re in, has a bunch of different things that they can vote on,” Lamberson said. “The referendum is very important, but also who represents you in your class council, who represents you in your student council and who represents you in your school council are all really important … as well.”

The Referendum

The U.Va Apartheid Divest Referendum, the only referendum in this year’s elections, was announced at a Students for Justice in Palestine teach-in event Feb. 6. The referendum calls on the University’s Investment Management Company, which oversees how the University’s $13.6 billion endowment is invested, to submit itself to an external auditing process to determine the extent of University’s financial involvement with companies engaged in human rights violations and, should they find any such investments, to divest from them. The referendum also calls for “the acknowledgment and increased support of Palestinian students on Grounds.” 

In a written statement to The Cavalier Daily, U.Va. Apartheid Divest said the University is morally obligated to divest from companies contributing to human rights violations. 

“We, as students, demand a university financial portfolio that helps the communities it serves and has a positive societal impact,” the organization said. “The student body voting yes on this referendum will emphasize to President Jim Ryan and the Board of Visitors that the time to act is now, and that their students will not tolerate U.Va.’s complicity any longer.”

The coalition first introduced the referendum with the goal of obtaining 950 student signatures on a petition, which would allow the referendum to be posed to the University’s student body as a “non-binding question of opinion,” per UBE policy. The petition obtained the required number of signatures within 48 hours of announcing the referendum, officially placing it on the ballot for the spring’s elections.

The referendum has also received pushback, with the Brody Jewish Center, Hillel and Chabad House releasing a shared statement encouraging University community members to vote against it. In the statement, the authors said the referendum encourages divestment from companies providing critical goods and services. They wrote that applying terms such as “apartheid” and “settler colonialism” to describe the ongoing conflict increases acts of antisemitism on college campuses. According to their statement, the organizations represent over 700 members of the University’s Jewish community who oppose the referendum.

“The allegations that Referendum 1 sets forth are not only baseless, but they also strip the

Jewish people of their right to self-determination on land to which they have deep ancestral ties,” the statement read. “Our community stands strongly in opposition to any efforts aimed at threatening Jewish life on Grounds.”

If passed, the referendum will not have the authority to force the University to do anything. It instead would represent a call for action on behalf of a large portion of the student body.

Student Council: The Endowment Question

In November, Student Council announced the creation of a $750,000 endowment to be used over three years, which dramatically increased the Student Council’s annual budget. Additional funds have already been made available to support student organizations, as well as to increase the scale and sustainability of the Support and Access Services branch.

Voters can expect Student Council candidates to address the endowment in their campaign platforms. Many of the candidates for representative positions have differing opinions over where and when to allocate the incoming endowment funds. Some would prefer to let the money build up to be spent at a later date, while others remain focused on providing additional funds to Contracted Independent Organizations and the Support and Access Services branch. 

UJC: Public Safety and Transparency

A pertinent topic to candidates running for UJC positions is that the newly-elected UJC leadership will inherit an organization that has seen major change in case numbers and types.

This year, the UJC has received a significant increase in the number of reported violations of Standard 2, which pertains to conduct that intentionally threatens a person’s health or safety. The organization is also seeing fewer cases than it has in the past, with last semester’s statistics report showing a decrease in the number of cases from the semester prior. 

The UJC is also currently focusing on improving transparency and awareness of their operations. Next month’s UJC week aims to increase engagement with the organization, and a new hazing subcommittee was staffed last semester to educate organizations about what UJC hazing trials look like. 

Voters can expect candidates to explore these issues within their statements on the ballot. 

Honor: The New Multi-Sanction System

Last year’s elections saw a landslide result that led to the adoption of the new multi-sanction system, marking the most significant change to the University’s Honor system. The new system allows for more proportional responses to Honor violations, as opposed to the single-sanction system’s only option of expulsion.

Like with the UJC, the Honor Committee has also demonstrated a commitment to transparency this year. The Committee organized Honor Week to improve student engagement with Honor and educate students on the multi-sanction system. A post-semester survey indicated some mixed feelings towards the Honor system, with a large number of students saying that they do not report offenses, something Honor leadership said could explain their reduced number of cases.

As the Committee continues to adjust to the multi-sanction system, the leaders that the student body elects for the upcoming year will have to continue overseeing the implementation of this brand new system.


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