After the Student Council elections filled both with controversy and success, the New Era of Student Government, led by the recently elected president Abel Liu, plans to continue fighting for meaningful change at the University.
There was a record turnout this year with over a 20% increase in voter participation and around 80% of the votes for president going to Liu. “I think people were excited about the new ideas and the idea of rebuilding a student government that most people don’t think works for them,” said Liu.
The group was also able to use social media to their advantage, interacting with new groups of students to gain trust and encourage voting. “[We] had the Minority Rights Coalition reposting our campaign materials from day one, and that’s never really happened before,” continued Liu.
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With all of these achievements and support, the cabinet plans on continuing on their journey for a new and improved university.
The team has large goals to build a new U.Va. Student Council that works for the student body under the guidelines of equity, empowerment, and renewal. However, many students are not informed on how the Student Council operates and the power they hold. “If people don’t know what the Student Council does, it’s the Student Council’s fault,” Liu said.
There are now five additional branches of student government. These consist of the President’s Cabinet, Organizations Branch, Administrative Branch, Representative Body, and the newest addition, the Support and Access Services Branch. While the first four branches are organizational and lobbying tools for the students, the Support and Access Services Branch directly supports the student body. “This branch will help override administrative failures from the university in terms of resource provision and taking care of people at a basic level,” said Liu.
University students have already come together to maintain services like the food pantry, student legal services, affordable break transportation services, and mutual aid. Liu’s team plans on aiding these existing services and implementing new ones to directly help students who need the support.
“Collegiate student governments across the country are increasingly becoming direct providers of services and resources.”
– Abel Liu, Student Council President 2021-2022
“Our goal is to create a streamlined and centralized funding source, set of operations, [and] manag[e] teams, making them more easily and widely accessible,” said Liu.
The endeavor for a student-led organization away from the University itself was designed to benefit the students directly. However, the long-term goal is to have these services incorporated by the University. “The ideal is to be out of service in a few years because U.Va. has adopted all of these services themselves and had paid administrators disbursing all of our resources to the student body,” said Liu.
Along with these financial resources that benefit students, the council plans to also change the environment of the U.Va. community by empowering different groups to “have conversations with administrators and make it clear what they need,” said Liu. Student Council will help facilitate these interactions but plans to empower student groups to take charge in changing the University.
Although this school year is coming to an end, Liu and his team plan to continue these services throughout the years at U.Va. “It will take longer than a year, but we plan to begin to build deeper trust from the students in the institution of the Student Council,” stated Liu. “Student Council can return to being a more progressive and effective medium for change at U.Va, and that begins with building that shared student power,” he concluded.