Student Council changes bylaws, voices support for Howard University Blackburn protest – University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily

Student Council introduced FR21-16, a resolution to support the Blackburn Takeover at Howard University and FR21-17, a proposal for a modest tuition increase to provide health insurance loan relief to low-income students at the University at Tuesday’s general body meeting. The former resolution was passed and the latter was tabled. 
Executive Board updates
The meeting began with a few updates from members of the executive board, including Abel Liu, Student Council president and fourth-year College student, who announced that fourth-year College student Ryan Alcorn has stepped down from his role of chief of cabinet. Alcorn is replaced by third-year Batten student Holly Sims, who previously served as chair of the Student Safety and Wellness Committee.
Additionally, Liu said parts of Student Council’s fall budget were not approved by the Student Activities Committee, which he noted was “certainly unprecedented.” The committee supervises the distribution of all funding generated by student activities fees. 
The budget was passed by the representative body last week and is $226,855 — $214,930 of which comes from SAF funding and $11,925 of which comes from non-SAF funding. Liu noted that funding for the University Networks of Care pilot program, which was discussed at last week’s meeting, was only conditionally approved.
“There are a few hoops that we have to jump through,” Liu said.
Changes to Student Council regulatory powers
The representative body passed a bill amending the organization’s code of ethics to grant Student Council the regulatory power to temporarily dismiss members who have been accused of violating the University Judiciary Committee’s 12 Standards of Conduct or the Honor Code. Members who are notified of charges must inform the chair of the Rules and Ethics Board — which is responsible for oversight of violations of the bylaws — within 72 hours of receiving the notice and will be suspended from Student Council until a verdict is reached. 
For violations of UJC’s standards of conduct, the Rules and Ethics Board will determine if a sanction is applicable. Student Council members who are found guilty of an Honor violation are automatically dismissed from the Council.
Membership suspension may be waived if the member in question discloses the basis of the charges against them to the Rules and Ethics Board, which can then determine by majority vote whether a waiver is warranted. 
Representative body passes resolution supporting Howard students
The representative body then passed a resolution supporting students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., who have been camping out in tents inside and outside of the Armour J. Blackburn Student Center since Oct. 12 in protest of housing conditions.
Students say they’ve encountered problems related to mold, pest control and water leaks. among other issues. Protestors at the historically Black college have been collaborating with the Live Movement, a national students’ rights organization that advocates for education reforms and academic advancement of Black education for all Black students. The resolution was sponsored by second-year College Rep. Tyler Busch and second-year College Rep. Tichara Robertson Lewis.
“Considering the University of Virginia’s historic benefiting from free enslaved labor and exclusion of Black people from the University, the University of Virginia has a moral obligation to stand in solidarity with students at a Historically Black University facing an issue tied to a funding disparity that the University of Virginia has always been the beneficiary of,” the resolution reads.
The resolution demands Howard students be given an in-person town hall meeting with Howard University’s President Wayne A.I. Frederick and administration before the end of the month. It also calls for support of the reinstatement of all affiliate trustee positions and a meeting with Howard University student leadership in order to discuss housing plans for students in addition to legal, disciplinary and academic immunity for participants of the protest. Affiliate trustees were removed from the Board of Trustees following an evaluation by an external firm which concluded that the University’s current form of governance was not working.
“I don’t think we need to go into the history of U.Va. and how the University has historically benefited from free enslaved labor and indigenous land so this is just a small step for us to uphold our moral obligation to the community that has been excluded from the University,” Busch said during the meeting.
The resolution passed with 23 votes.
Aetna insurance health grants
Student Council also discussed FR21-17, which was sponsored by Liu, Ceci Cain, vice-president for administration and third-year College student, and Gabriela Hernandez, chair of the representative body and third-year College student. 
As presented during Tuesday’s meeting, the bill asked the University to increase undergraduate tuition by $75 to $85 in order to create a $30 to $45 million funding pool for Aetna Student Health grants. Undergraduate students eligible for these grants would be Pell grant recipients and those eligible for non-Virginia Medicaid in their home states, and the pool would cover the cost of Aetna grants until the end of the 2023-24 academic year.  
The cost of the Aetna Student Health Insurance Plan is $3,100 and is subject to increases each year. According to the bill, this cost is “particularly detrimental” to low-income students with non-Virginia or out of state Medicaid insurance, which does not transfer across state-lines. Many of these students graduate with over $12,000 in insurance debt.
Given the University’s need-based loan caps, which limit need-based loans to $7,000 per year for out-of-state students, the University does not offer any support to students purchasing the Aetna Student Health Insurance Plan. All students enrolling at the University must submit proof of a health insurance plan — students who do not submit a waiver before the annual deadline are automatically enrolled in the Aetna Student Health plan. 
The bill cites the University’s vast resources and the $5 billion Advancement Campaign underway as alternatives to the tuition increase beyond the 2023-24 academic year. Announced in 2018, the $5 billion fundraising campaign launched in 2019 and will extend through 2025. Money raised will go towards advancing the University’s core priorities, which include faculty, student access, fellowships and affordability. 
Beyond the 2023-24 academic year, the bill urges University administration to earmark private funding for Aetna Student Health Plan grants and direct the tuition increase to support debt relief for University alumni.
“Insurance is a service of ‘life or death’ importance to many students, and especially low-income students, who cannot afford emergency care without insurance,” the bill reads. 
Rep. Ella Tynch, third-year College student, questioned what Liu’s response was to those who saw him campaign on the promise of making the cost of attending the University more affordable, particularly after Liu worked with other members of Student Council and Young Democratic Socialists of America at U.Va. last year to campaign for the tuition freeze implemented by the Board of Visitors. Additionally, while Liu’s campaign platform called for a tuition freeze, Liu also said he planned to make the Aetna Student Health Plan more affordable with a grant program and an extension of the payment from three to six months.
“What is your plan to say to people if there is a large tuition increase proposed?” Tynch asked. “What are you going to say to people that say well ‘why do you want to do this, I thought you were against a tuition increase’ and how can you guarantee that this is going to lead to these insurance grants?”
Liu responded that because a tuition freeze this year is unlikely, it’s in Student Council’s best interest to ensure that part of the likely increase in tuition this year goes towards supporting lowering the cost of health insurance for students.
Ahead of next week’s meeting, Liu said he hopes to amend the bill so increases in tuition are reallocated to a pool to support health insurance grants for low-income students at the University.
“The tact that we’ve decided to take this year is rather than fight for freezes, fight to make sure that any increases go towards programs that actually support the students just because a freeze is so unlikely,” Liu said during the meeting. “That’s why we’re pausing this resolution — rather than advocating for an additional increase, I’d like to target the increase that is already happening and so that’s why we’re going to table the resolution tonight.”
The bill was tabled and will be discussed at next week’s general body meeting. Student Council meets weekly Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Newcomb South Meeting Room.
Each group was led by a facilitator from the Hoos Connected program. 
While the race for Virginia’s next governor is heating up, voters in Charlottesville and parts of Albemarle County will also have the chance to vote for the next 57th District Delegate in Virginia’s lower chamber.
Incumbent Governor Ralph Northam is ineligible to run as Article V of Virginia’s constitution prevents governors from serving consecutive terms.
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