SBA State of the School Address

Alex Haden '17

Monday’s SBA meeting comprised two parts. In the first part, SBA President A.J. Collins presented his State of the School Address for the SBA and all members of the school who wished to attend. The second part consisted of a normal SBA meeting approving the final voting rules for the first Law School election cycle apart from the undergraduate University Board of Elections (UBE). 

Turnout for the State of the School Address was relatively high, although Collins was disappointed that no members of the administration nor members of Student Affairs attended. Collins’ presentation mirrored his campaign slogan from last year: YOUR SBA. The slogan is an acronym: Your ideas, old and new; Openness and transparency; Unifying groups for progress; and Reforming and restructuring.

Collins first discussed the Goluboff Cup, a competition for 1Ls similar to the House Cup at Hogwarts. Collins admitted that the participation in the Cup was lower than expected, but for a first attempt at the competition, it went fairly well. Collins expects next year to be even better with more partnerships between SBA and other groups for point calculations.

Collins also discussed the Wahoos for the Bayous campaign, which raised money for relief funds after the hurricane last year, and the accompanying food drive. The SBA’s Dean-a-Week program was also lauded as a success, as various administrators at the school came in to SBA meetings to discuss their offices and responsibilities.

One of SBA’s most active committees, Health and Wellness Programming, has been very busy this year with all of its activities. They have provided healthy snacks, put on the Health and Wellness Fair that brought many businesses into the school, put on Mental Health Week, and brought therapy puppies to the school. Kudos to Ali Mulry and Christine Sherman, chairs of Wellness Programming, for successfully leading the committee.

Collins then discussed the various projects that are still in progress for the SBA. First on the agenda was the GradFest event, a sort of collaborative fair for graduate students across UVa’s campus. There are some obstacles in place regarding scheduling and communication among the various schools. Second, SBA is still tackling the complicated issue of undergraduates in the library. There seem to be some communication issues among the Law School administration, library staff, and student representatives, but the SBA is determined to find the optimal solution for students. 

The SBA is still looking into the possibility of getting longer cafeteria hours from Aramark, especially given that Darden has longer hours and (apparently) better food. There are a lot of stakeholders at play in this issue, and negotiating this contract may prove tougher than initially thought. Finally, the Wednesday keg still remains an issue for SBA, especially regarding which day of the week it should occur and whether Main Grounds policy should apply to us.

The SBA also hopes to continue improving its technology, including its website and outline bank. They are also looking into creating an SBA app and a more unified communications system.

The more technical part of the meeting was the SBA’s discussion of the new voting procedures for the upcoming Law School election. The measures passed unanimously, and the rules are now in effect. Some of the more substantive changes that are different from past years include:

Student mailboxes may be used during campaigns. The Election Committee felt that the previously-existing ban did not serve an important purpose and therefore, are fair game.

The email policy has completely been revamped. People may send direct emails to any person, regardless of whether they have a personal connection. The old policy was difficult to enforce and hard to properly sanction. Additionally, list-serves may be used for campaign emails so long as the sender is a part of that list-serve. Candidates may not join list-serves for the purpose of sending campaign materials. Candidates may still create their own private list-serves for campaigning purposes.

The Election Committee retains the power to create an appropriate sanction for any violation of the rules. The Elections Committee felt that rules for specific violations would be too inflexible and controversial to pass. All sanction decisions are immediately appealable to an appellate board consisting of two members of the Elections Committee, an Honor Rep, a UJC Rep, and the SBA President. 

The Elections Committee kept the 20-signature petition requirement for candidates to submit before they can appear on the ballot. The Committee explained that they felt it was important to have at least some hurdle to clear in order to appear on the ballot; otherwise, people could just apply for any position with very little cost. In addition, the Elections Committee has imposed a maximum of two positions that a candidate may run for.

The instant runoff voting system from UBE was abandoned in favor of simple plurality voting. In the case that more than two candidates run for a position, a candidate must get a plurality of at least 40% of the vote to be elected; in the event no candidate receives this amount, a separate runoff between the top two candidates will occur right after the main election.

The SBA used its power to enact these rules. One such rule says that these election rules may only be amended by a 70% majority of the SBA voting to change them. This higher bar was implemented in order to ensure that changes could not be made by a simple majority once the voting had gone underway. 

    The Elections Committee is hosting a meeting for candidates to go over these rules on Wednesday, February 1st, at 5PM. Candidacy statements and petition signatures are due on Monday, February 6th, at 11:59pm. Candidates may begin campaigning on Monday, February 13th, at noon. The Law Weekly will host the annual SBA debate on February 20th at 11:30am. Voting opens at 12:01am on Tuesday, February 21st, and closes at 11:59pm on Wednesday, February 22nd 11:59pm. Results will be announced on Friday, February 24th at 5pm.

    Editor’s note: Alex Haden, the Editor-in-Chief of Virginia Law Weekly, is one of the three members of the Election Committee. Therefore, to remain impartial, all future Law Weekly coverage of the Law School elections will be created, edited, and produced without Alex’s input or advice.