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Governance series #1: Student Council at UVA

college culture


University of Virginia


Governance series #1: Student Council at UVA

What's the difference between all the councils anyways?

Chelsea Li


Ah, UVA, the hub of student self governance. But just like the general population of America, the students of UVA have surprisingly little knowledge or care of how students can go about enacting change. In the last UVA spring general election, multiple positions had either one or no candidates running, and voter apathy was high at less than 40% of the student population voting.

Now, one reason for this is that, in my opinion, UVA has too many positions/councils, and students don't even know what each position/council does, let alone that they even exist. Hence, I am writing a series of articles describing the different student positions/councils/groups to raise awareness and explain what they each do. I consider myself relatively active in student politics, and having interacted with these groups, I hope to share my experiences.

The joke goes that Student Council doesn't do anything On-Grounds. StudCo definitely does things, but I do admit that we may expect more from a body comprised of over 320 members and over 15 committees. StudCo purports to represent the whole of UVA, which is pretty hard if you think about all the undergraduate and graduate students from all the different schools. The constitution stipulates each School must have at least one representative, with an additional representative for every 1000 students enrolled in that School. Schools with separate governing Councils for undergraduates and graduates are treated as if they are separate Schools (e.g. College of Arts and Sciences vs. Graduate School of Arts and Sciences).

These representatives make up the Representative Body, who are in charge of allocating Student Activity Fees, determining CIO eligibility, sponsoring University wide referendum except those relating to the Honor Code or the Standards of Conduct, and creating and modifying Student Council bylaws. Some recent actions that were passed include stipulating how to become a new CIO and passing resolutions supporting DACA recipients and condemning Islamophobic rhetoric and ungrounded hate speech. All these updates can be found on the StudCo website which is linked in the bold Student Council header above.

Then, there's another large part of Student Council. These are the Executive Board and committees. The Executive Board and its administration are mainly in charge of coordination and maintaining order. Each committee, from Academic Affairs to Safety and Wellness to Diversity Engagement, have a responsibility to arrange events and bring up student concerns to StudCo's general body and to school administrators related to their committee subject area. Sometimes, special ad-hoc committees are created tackling specific issues such as employment or printing. The bureaucracy of having hundreds of students, administrators, and Charlottesville community members working together makes logistics difficult and approval processes slow.

Now, does Student Council do anything? That's up to you to decide now that you know more. This year, StudCo is doing its best to improve student participation, so be part of school-wide change and voice your thoughts at Speak Up UVA. Some tangible results so far have been arranging rides for students to vote in the recent election, conducting a disability awareness week, and coordinating an UPD/Ambassador meet and greet event. Keep an eye out for StudCo newsletters and Facebook events to learn what's going on and to get involved with the largest governing body at UVA! The spring election is the major time to get involved as part of the representative body, and you can register for that here when the time comes. Elections are governed by the University Board of Elections, which is a group of 11 UVA students that oversee the elections, and the application process for that is in the spring as well. For committees, applications/interviews happen mainly in the incoming fall semester, but also happen via newsletter for some committees at the end of spring semester for those who pay attention.

Look out for future articles about Honor Committee, University Judiciary Committee, College Council and Engineering Council, and Class Councils!