Student Council votes on police defunding, COVID relief in special session

UVA’s Student Council held an online special legislative session Sunday to vote on several resolutions related to COVID-19 relief and the Black Lives Matter movement at the University.

The Representative Body of Student Council — made up of elected undergraduate and graduate representatives — voted on five resolutions and one bill at the session. All of the bills and resolutions passed.

The most contentious resolution of the meeting related to the ongoing wave of Black Lives Matter protests. 

“This comes at a time when the extent of racism and brutality against BIPOC individuals and communities in the police system has been highlighted on the national stage,” said Ellen Yates, President of Student Council. “And Grounds is no different.”

The resolution demanded UVA decrease the budget of the University Police Department (UPD) and reallocate those funds to Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS).

Yates cited a recent Student Council survey in which 60% of students reported negative interactions with UPD and 98% of students said they supported a reallocation of police funds.

The only vocal critic of the resolution was Brett Hoffman, undergraduate representative for the Commerce School, who said he was concerned that a lower budget could impede UPD’s “ability to serve and protect the community.”

Edric Kim, representative for the Law School, was the only member to vote against the resolution. Hoffman and College representative Matthew Lord abstained.

Members of the Representative Body met over Zoom Sunday to debate and vote on several resolutions.

The Representatives also voted on four resolutions related to the University’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

One notable resolution called for the Board of Visitors to reverse a tuition increase that was approved last December and freeze increases for the next three years.

“The University is going to have to dig into its pockets,” said Abel Liu, Chair of the Representative Body. “The choice we have in front of us is whether they’re going to dig into our pockets or theirs.”

The Body also voted to call for UVA to expand free COVID-19 testing to all UVA and Charlottesville community members and give out more personal protective equipment than originally planned. 

They also asked UVA to institute hazard pay for all workers and a firing freeze through 2023.

Other resolutions included a call for earlier move-in dates ⁠— especially for international students in order to self-quarantine ⁠—  and an expansion of accessibility to the Student Disabilities Access Center (SDAC).

UPDATE (21 July 2020): Three of these resolutions — related to tuition freezes, COVID relief, and the expansion of SDAC — were based on demands previously made by the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) at UVA. YDSA was credited in Student Council’s resolutions.


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