Hold UVa StudCo Accountable for Denying DREAMers CIO Status!
Hold UVa StudCo Accountable for Denying DREAMers CIO Status!
After DREAMers on Grounds was denied of CIO status from Student Council at the University of Virginia, we decided that change needed to be made. And so, this petition demands that this powerful organization be held accountable for the mistakes that were made during this process. The list of demands are the following:
- A public apology from Student Council.
- That steps be taken in order to improve transparency and communication.
- That the University conduct a mandatory review of all of Student Council, board and representatives.
- A public apology from Representative Erich Reimer, along with his immediate removal as representative of Student Council.
Below are all details of what we, a marginalized up-and-coming organization, went through. We urge you to use your power as a student, community member, alumni, faculty, etc. in order to help us make change happen at OUR University.
DREAMers on Grounds is a newly founded organization, at the University of Virginia, with a mission to create a more inclusive environment and an overall safe space for the undocumented community and its Allies at UVa through education and advocacy. After completing a rigorous 19 page application in order to even apply, DREAMers were denied Contracted Independent Organization (CIO) status on Tuesday, March 22nd; meaning we are unable to book spaces on grounds and to apply for funding- which is vital when planning for events. There were many errors made during this lengthy process and to ensure that this does not occur again we have listed below a list of demands. Help us hold Student Council (StudCo) accountable for all the mistakes that were made. This is OUR university too, we demand to be treated with the respect any other non-multicultural organization would be treated.
The outdated StudCo website and Constitution emphasizes that, “The official purpose of Student Council is to protect and improve the rights, opportunities, and quality of life of every student at the University of Virginia” (StudCo Constitution). However, they further marginalize an already oppressed group of students by failing to properly represent and grant us opportunities.
Our first demand is A PUBLIC APOLOGY FROM STUDCO. After applying for CIO status, DREAMers had to personally reach out to the then Vice President of Organizations, Emily Lodge, because we were not being contacted. Weeks later, we received a message from her asking us to meet on her time, which happened to be the same day she sent the email. We expressed our unavailability, considering it was Midterms season. DREAMers was not contacted after this. Furthermore, we were unaware that StudCo was even voting on our application on the night of March 22nd. We were completely left out of the loop. StudCo needs to better their communication and engagement procedures with applicants. Not having the courtesy to inform us or update us is completely unacceptable. Even if we have showed initiative, as we have during all this process, we would have been unable to make the meeting because their meeting calendar online is completely empty as well as their social media posts.
Our second demand is to IMPROVE TRANSPARENCY and COMMUNICATION. When we were informed by present members, not the executive board, that we had been denied CIO Status we immediately began looking for transcripts. The last transcript uploaded to their website is from Spring 2015. StudCo should make the transcripts completely accessible to the public, considering they represent us. Also, per the StudCo constitution it is unconstitutional for there to be such a crippled communication with the student body. We were contacted by representatives that were present and were informed that inappropriate comments were said during the voting portion, such as “... this group could compromise the University’s image… ” These representatives that shared these inappropriate comments are willing to be quoted. When we revised the transcripts those comments were not written down. The reason being that the note-taker jots down what they “believe” is important. We demand that StudCo records all their meetings from now on, so that comments such as these are recorded for evidence. This is definitely something that could be done, consider how much each student is being charged for Student Activity Fees.
Our third demand is for THE UNIVERSITY TO CONDUCT A MANDATORY REVIEW OF STUDENT COUNCIL. We demand that an ad hoc administration-run committee conduct this review. We understand that the Rules and Ethics Board is in place, however they failed us in this process. Also StudCo’s relation with this Board is not completely trustworthy, as it was not appointed at all last semester (Cav Daily, "Student Council Reopens Following Closure"). Former 2015-2016 StudCo President Abe Axler shares that, “Student Council has not had a properly-appointed ethics board for several years” (Cav Daily, "Lessons from the Student Council Shutdown"). An attempt at an apology from recently-sworn-in Vice President of Organizations, MacKenzie Hodgson, 2 days after the voting reads, “Your organization was initially not given status because too many Reps abstained from voting and the minimum number of votes was not reached. It was not a vote against your organization, but rather very new representatives (they had been sworn in at this meeting) were unaware of their responsibilities as representatives”. However, the StudCo constitution Article II Section 3 Clause A: Rules and Ethics Board reads, “The Rules and Ethics Board shall be responsible for the adjudication of alleged violations of the Constitution and Bylaws, as well as ensuring that all Officers and Representatives are familiar with the Constitution, Bylaws, and procedures of Student Council before taking office“ (StudCo Constitution). We need answers and repercussions as to why these representatives were allowed to vote if they were unaware of their responsibilities. Additionally, this ad hoc committee needs to scrub for xenophobic representatives who have been placed in office. The attempt of an apology from VPO Hodgson is a mere excuse to protect these discriminatory representatives.
Our fourth demand is A PUBLIC APOLOGY AND THE IMMEDIATE REMOVAL OF LAW SCHOOL REPRESENTATIVE, ERICH REIMER. StudCo prides itself in not restricting “membership and/or activity by reason of age, citizenship, color, disability, gender, race, religion, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or status as a disabled veteran, or veteran of the Vietnam eras” (StudCo Constitution). However, Erich Reimer openly disrespectfully displayed his joy through Facebook when DREAMers was denied CIO status an hour after voting- even before we were officially notified. His status post read, “UVA Student Council news: bill approving a student group to support illegal immigrants at UVA has been defeated! #conservative”. His post was followed by comments that read, “Kaboom #BuildTheWall” and other similar outrageous remarks. Even though the post was removed the next day, the harm had already been done; offensive terms such as “illegal” was used and he made it clear that StudCo was not to be trusted. The feeling that DREAMers were unwelcome was already being felt. Representative Reimer finally issued DREAMers a private apology 3 DAYS after he posted the offensive status. It read, “Student Council should not be affected by partisan biases rather than what is good and right for the students at the University as a whole”. This reads as a confirmation of our fears- that he allowed his political views to interfere with serious matters that harm the whole university. This apology means nothing to us. There is no way that we can be reassured that this will not occur in the future. This individual holds other important positions in which he represents the University. However, StudCo is not a place in which he can hold office, with this mindset. He is to be removed immediately.
Not attaining CIO status will not deter us from our mission. We conducted DREAM Week with no financial help from StudCo. We independently put on a successful week of events without help from majority upheld groups. However, with CIO status we will show that this too is OUR University. When StudCo denied us of this they demonstrated their hypocrisy of self-governance. They post that, “In 1946, President Colgate Darden, recognizing the strong tradition of student self governance at the University of Virginia, delegated to Student Council the power to recognize all student organizations” (StudCo Website). DREAMers has been working effectively for about a year and a half now, we are the definition of self-governance. So where is our recognition?
By signing this petition help the hushed voices have some control on what happens at the University of Virginia. Thank you for all your support!