Student Council passes resolution requesting Islamic prayer spaces on Grounds – The Cavalier Daily


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Student Council voted to pass a resolution requesting additional Islamic prayer spaces on Grounds during their last meeting with the 2023-24 executive board Tuesday. Student Council also tabled resolution SR24-11, which requested the creation of additional University Transit Service OnDemand Hubs to improve student safety at night. 

SR24-10, sponsored by second-year College Rep. Imane Akhanous and third-year College Rep. Yassamine Kamal, said the University’s current “lack [of] an adequate number of prayer spaces” has caused difficulties for Muslim students seeking spaces in which to pray. According to the resolution, several Muslim students, as well as the Muslim Student Association itself, have voiced concerns about the difficulties the lack of prayer spaces has created in fulfilling their religious obligations. 

The resolution also expanded on the religious context of prayer spaces, explaining that the Islamic faith typically requires practicing people to pray five times a day during specific times. To fulfill their religious obligations at the demanded times, Muslim students often must find locations to pray on Grounds. Kamal said as of now, the only space dedicated to prayer is the Newcomb Hall Interfaith Student Center.

“A lot of Muslims are having trouble finding places to pray, especially since women have to have different accommodations when it comes to praying in public,” Kamal said. “Generally, there’s not a lot of places where you can go between classes and pray on time … our resolution is basically calling for the University to bring more spaces to accommodate for Muslims here on Grounds.”

First-year College Rep. Cody Scarce agreed that there is an inadequate number of prayer spaces on Grounds, noting that a student in his dorm often has to pray in the dorm’s study rooms. 

The legislation passed unanimously. 

During the legislative session, Student Council also discussed SR24-11, which requested that new OnDemand Hubs — fixed pickup and dropoff locations for the University’s OnDemand van shuttle service — continue operating after 6 p.m. to increase student safety. The resolution was sponsored by second-year College Rep. Sylvia Rahim, and Student Council ultimately voted to table SR24-11 until the plan’s details were further developed.

The resolution aims to improve safety by requesting that the UTS provide additional hubs across nine areas not typically directly serviced by UTS routes during the evening, including Whitehead Road at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, Ridley Hall, Central Grounds Garage, Alumni Hall, Snyder Tennis Courts, University Avenue at McCormick Road, Stadium Road at Alderman Road, Jefferson Park Avenue at New Cabell and Maury Ave, Jefferson Park Avenue at Woodrow St..

According to the proposal, crowdedness at bus stops endangers students by leaving them to wait for additional buses in the dark for long periods of time. The results of a survey cited in the legislation, which received 34 responses, reported that half of the respondents rated crowdedness on evening routes a four or above on a scale of one to five, with one being “very low/not at all” and five being “a lot/all the time.” 

Third-year College Rep. Jason Almas motioned to table the plan after representatives voiced confusion about the resolution, including why the resolution advocated for expanding On Demand services as a solution for crowdedness at bus stops instead of adding more buses to the UTS system. The motion passed, with 21 representatives voting to table. 

Student Council also passed SR24-09, a symbolic resolution which recognized the work of the executive board and all other fourth-years on the Representative Body. Sponsored by fourth-year College Rep. Tyler Busch, the legislation was made to recognize the accomplishments of the 2023-24 term and wish the best for the incoming administration. 

Another way Student Council celebrated its recent work was through a brief year-in-review segment of the meeting, in which several executive board members discussed accomplishments from last April until now. 

One significant milestone was the passage of an “unprecedented” budget of nearly $450,000 under Holly Sims, vice president for administration and graduate Batten student. This budget was enabled by the newly allocated $750,000 endowment, which will be distributed over the course of three years. The executive board also mentioned the creation of the Endowment Advisory Council, which was created to advise Student Council on how best to use the endowment funds.

“Thank you for the work that the entire Student Council has done this year … everyone has been an integral part of making [Student Council] run,” Busch said. “Some of us have been here all four years and it’s just beautiful to see … where things are going and also express our support for the incoming administration.” 

Additionally, Student Council devoted a few minutes to reflecting on the progress and role of the Student Council in the University community. According to the executive board, the usage of Support and Access Services is at an all-time high and many interested applicants are seeking to engage in Student Council’s work. 

Andreas Masiakos, representative body chair and third-year College student, addressed the Council’s successes and acknowledged the challenges they have faced during their work this year.

“You should all be very, very proud of yourselves,” Masiakos said. “It is not an easy time to be student leaders, I’m sure you see in the news student leaders at other universities getting attacked, berated. It’s not an easy time and you all handled it very well. You reaffirm your commitment to the students and U.Va., and made U.Va. a better place, so great job.”

The incoming administration will be led by The Voice Movement, which is spearheaded by President-elect Valentina Mendoza-Gonzalez, current director of coalition engagement for Student Council and third-year Batten student. She will be joined by Third-year College student Brookelyn Mitchell, current chief of cabinet, who will serve as vice president for administration. Third-year Commerce student Ryan Bowers, current appropriations committee co-chair, will serve alongside them as vice president for organizations.

As for other leadership positions, Mitchell said Student Council received roughly 70 leadership and over 20 executive applications for appointed leadership positions in the upcoming term. She also said interviews are being held throughout the week, and that decisions will likely be released this weekend. A transition ceremony will take place Sunday. 

Student Council’s new board for the 2024-2025 term will hold their first general body meeting Tuesday.

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