The Rejection of DREAMers Hints at Bigger Flaws in System

April 12, 2016

Story by Allyson Cartwright

On Tuesday, March 22, the University of Virginia Student Council (StudCo) rejected a proposal from DREAMers requesting Contracted Independent Organization (CIO) status. DREAMers is a newly-founded organization at UVA that exists in various forms around the country. The organization’s aim at UVA is to create a “more inclusive environment and an overall safe space for the undocumented community and its Allies at UVa through education and advocacy,” the group describes.

The StudCo vote came down to six council representatives voting to approve DREAMers for CIO status, while the other six council representatives voted to abstain. In effect, DREAMers was rejected for CIO status. Becoming a CIO would mean that the group would qualify for university funding and could rent university equipment or book university space. StudCo claims that it is not unheard of for a CIO to be initially rejected based on the council wanting to ask more questions to the organization, the group can then go through re-application; StudCo says this what happened in this instance with DREAMers.

dreamers logoHowever, DREAMers argue that the six abstentions were more so an innocuous “xenophobic” act, as they said in their petition against StudCo. The Black Student Alliance commented on the vote as well saying in a public email last Sunday, “This abstention was not only a failure of these elected representatives to do their duty and cast a vote, but it was also a cowardly way to reject the DREAMers on Grounds request without being on record as having voting in opposition to DREAMers on Grounds,” the BSA said in a public email statement March 27th, “This abstention was not only a failure of these elected representatives to do their duty and cast a vote, but it was also a cowardly way to reject the DREAMers on Grounds request without being on record as having voting in opposition to DREAMers on Grounds,” the BSA said in a public email statement Sunday.

DREAMers sited the comments of one of the StudCo representatives, second-year law student Erich Reimer, as example that suggests there may have been partisan sentiments involved in the decision rejecting the group. Reimer touted on Facebook that StudCo “defeated” DREAMers saying in a post, “U.Va. Student Council news: bill approving a student group to support illegal immigrants at U.Va. has been defeated! #conservative.”

Moreover, there were suspicious flaws in StudCo transparency when it came to DREAMers CIO application process. DREAMers was told by StudCo Vice President of Organizations MacKenzie Hodgson that a misunderstandings and inefficiencies were the root of the rejection. Hodgson said, “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”.

This StudCo decision cannot conclusively be admonished as a prejudicial act by the whole group, but based on Reimer’s decisive Facebook post it shows that there is unfairness in the system. This incident needs to spark questions on the University’s student self-governance ideal. Many organizations on grounds foster exclusivity and their acceptance processes lead to inviting more like-minded individuals to join. Even if StudCo members do not agree with the mission of DREAMers, it is unfair that they have the capacity to deny them a place within the university to spite their ideological differences. StudCo should also reevaluate their procedure when their representatives have the capacity to vote on bills while being “unaware of their responsibilities as representatives”.

Following the aftermath of the DREAMers petition against StudCo, the two groups have released a joint statement and DREAMers has been approved CIO status as of March 29th. Erich Reimer has since released an apology to DREAMers and removed his Facebook post. StudCo also denounced his post as “insensitive and polarizing”.

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