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Student Council debates resolution for increased allergen transparency, reviews summer budget

The resolution to support students with allergies was postponed for discussion until next week

<p>The 2024-25 administration’s summer budget will be the first summer budget passed after the creation of the $750,000 Student Council endowment, which President Jim Ryan announced in the fall.</p>

The 2024-25 administration’s summer budget will be the first summer budget passed after the creation of the $750,000 Student Council endowment, which President Jim Ryan announced in the fall.

Student Council debated a bill that would advocate for increased support of students with allergies at on-Grounds food service establishments during their general body meeting Tuesday. Additionally, Student Council also began reviewing the 2024 summer budget which is newly-designed to last until September.

During its legislative session, Student Council entertained SR24-23, a resolution sponsored by first-year College Rep. Brian Ng, that is designed to support students with food allergies at the University through changes to Grubhub allergen listings.

According to Ng, after he ate unlabeled food from Za’atar, an on-Grounds dining location serving Mediterranean cuisine, he was hospitalized due to an allergic reaction. Ng said the experience opened his eyes to a need for awareness, higher food quality standards at the University and better transparency surrounding students’ allergies and dietary restrictions.

“[Going to the hospital] really did spark a thought for me that maybe this is not an issue that only pertains to me,” Ng said. “I've actually had a lot of people reach out to me concerning this issue.”

Ng said the resolution hopes to support students by requiring U.Va. Dine locations to provide a comprehensive list of allergens for food items on GrubHub, create an allergen profile on the app that prevents students from purchasing food with said allergens and label all foods with potential allergens. Presently, diners are only asked to indicate what allergens they have prior to placing a Grubhub order.

Kendall Moss, second-year College student, spoke during the public comments period of the meeting in support of the legislation. Moss said due to her celiac disease, a digestive and immune disorder that is triggered by the consumption of gluten, she cannot eat at University dining locations due to the risk of unknowingly ingesting the allergen. Moss said that more people should be sympathetic to those with allergies looking to dine on Grounds, as difficulties with dining can impact their mental, physical and social wellbeing.

“When we view this issue as rare or ‘not our problem,’ it hurts people and has a physical impact on people,” Moss said. “[The issue has] mental [impacts] too — I know being unable to sit alongside my peers to eat denies me a social experience, and that can be really isolating. No one should have to experience that.”

Testimonies from Ng, Moss and first-year College student Anna Keefer during the public comments session garnered applause from many representatives who expressed their support of the legislation. Despite approval from several representatives, some representatives said they had concerns about specific logistics of the legislation’s measures, such as computing complications within the app and the legislation’s overlap with U.Va. Dine’s current allergy protocol. Some representatives also said that preventing students from ordering certain items with allergens could make it difficult for those looking to order food for their friends. During this discussion, third-year College Rep. Jason Almas spoke in favor of the resolution despite the logistical concerns.

“This is good legislation, people,” Almas said. “We've had two wonderful speakers here today that have said that they can't consume things on Grounds, a place where we require first years to get a meal plan, because they have a fear of death or lifelong illness. That's not okay.”

Following this discussion, first-year College Rep. Cody Scarce said Student Council should table the resolution to be discussed at the next meeting. Scarce said this tabling may allow concerned representatives to discuss logistics with Ng and clarify some parts of the legislation.  

Ng opposed the motion to table the resolution, stating that the legislation is meant to outline a broad set of proposals rather than request any allocation of funds or other legislative action. Ng said passing the resolution would simply show Student Council’s immediate support for students with allergies.

Ng also said tabling resulted in inaction on a previous resolution he sponsored, which would have allowed the use of pepper spray at University-sanctioned events, and that he was concerned that tabling this resolution could effectively kill it. 

“We did say that last time for the pepper spray resolution,” Ng said. “I really want to make sure that this like this is something that's really important to us, and so I understand [the concerns], but we do have the means right now to push forward with this.”

Despite varying opinions within the representative body about whether the resolution meritted immediate passage, Student Council postponed further discussion about the legislation for its next meeting after Almas noted that it was becoming late in the evening.

Student Council also reviewed the new summer 2024 budget, which totals $195,071 of allocations, comprising $112,199 from the Student Activities Fee, $2,930 from non-SAF funds and $79,942 of University-allocated funds. The Student Activities Fee is a mandatory $58 annual fee included in students’ tuition and fees that helps fund the University’s Contracted Independent Organizations. 

The 2024-25 administration’s summer budget will be the first summer budget passed after the creation of a three-year $750,000 endowment allocated to Student Council by University President Jim Ryan, which was announced in the fall. Brookelyn Mitchell, vice president for administration and third-year College student, said the new source of University funding will allow a higher summer budget overall. 

This budget is more than twice the size of Student Council’s summer 2023 budget, which totaled $59,852.60. According to Mitchell, the budget for this summer has increased from previous years for multiple reasons, such as a new timeframe and the endowment fund. 

According to Mitchell, in past years, the budget has typically been designed to last until the first few weeks of August. Mitchell said this budgetary system has delayed Student Council's ability to begin allocating funds to different programs and organizations available to students, including the Arts Fund and GIFT Grant, which respectively allocate funds to individual art projects and environmental sustainability projects. This year, the summer budget will include funding for Student Council’s projects that will extend into September, allowing them to fund more projects and activities earlier in the academic year. 

“We want to start a lot of things a lot earlier,” Mitchell said. “We want to make sure that we're ready to hit the ground running when we come here in the fall, and that's why we have a significantly bigger budget. 

Within the summer 2024 budget, a large portion of endowment funds will be allocated to the Support and Access Services branch. The highest amounts are $20,000 going towards the textbook access office and $17,000 going to Airbus, which provides bus transportation from Charlottesville to airports in Richmond and Washington, D.C.

The bill was tabled in accordance with standard procedure, which requires bylaw and budget policies to be tabled twice before a final vote by the representative body.

Although the budget bill and allergy resolution were both tabled for upcoming meetings, Student Council unanimously passed SB24-21, amending Student Council’s bylaws to reflect the name change of the Curry School of Education and Human Development to the School of Education and Human Development. The bill was introduced by Benvin Lozada, the new rules and ethics chair and graduate Arts & Sciences student, at a previous meeting during which it was tabled due to standard procedure.

Student Council will further discuss the allergy resolution and reintroduce the summer budget when they meet Tuesday.


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