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In Focus: Members aim for balance of debate and impact

Mary Kate Malone | Friday, January 21, 2005

When student body president Adam Istvan calls the Council of Representatives meeting to order every Monday night, representatives are hushed.

Istvan exerts a quiet authority over the COR members as orders of business are discussed and debated in COR’s weekly meetings.

So far this year, COR has promptly met at their scheduled time and carried out their weekly business in an orderly, timely fashion.

Yet the business side of COR’s weekly meetings is not a sure sign of success.

For a student government group to be successful, its presence must be felt on campus as it pursues ways to improve student life at Notre Dame.

Communication

Integral to the success of COR is the ability of its members to effectively communicate with one another and to the rest of the student body. This year’s representatives have done a fair job on both of these requirements, but are lacking a truly balanced forum for debate.

“I have found that there is a lack of upward flow of ideas at our meetings,” chief executive assistant Dave Baron said. “It seems that Adam, Karla and I see an issue and ask the representatives for their feedback. But each representative should be bringing ideas to COR themselves.”

Discussion at COR meetings is largely dominated by Istvan. Though the council is meant to serve as a sounding board for Istvan’s ideas, if representatives do not contribute ideas from their respective constituencies, then Istvan’s ability to answer to the student body’s needs is hindered.

Senior class president Darrell Scott’s appeal for the inclusion of a non-voting member to the council from the Diversity Council is an example of how members’ ideas can be implemented if properly communicated at the meetings.

Representing student

interests

The Council of Represent-atives, made up of the leaders of various organizations on campus, is the sole student government body in which ideas from all students can be heard.

Unlike the Senate, which is made up of representatives from each dorm on campus, COR draws its members from a cross-section of the student body.

“In COR we have a more specified constituency. We hear the voices of each class, a financial voice, a minority voice and many others,” Istvan said.

This combination allows for a wide variety of student interests to be heard and has served as a key component for the fulfillment of Istvan, Bell and Baron’s goals for this year, including the push for Fair Trade coffee and the DVD rental in the Huddle.

Purpose vs. reality

When describing the powers of the Council of Represen-tatives, Baron is quick to note that “COR is not a legislative body.” Indeed COR has no power to pass legislation.

COR meetings this year have centered largely on discussion. Based on revisions in the new constitution, COR no longer has the ability to pass amendments.

And since last year’s council devoted much of their time and energy into creating the new constitution, Istvan faced some apprehension with regard to just what would be done in COR’s weekly meetings.

“Coming in, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, I had no idea what we were going to do because the new constitution changed the focus of COR meetings,” Istvan said.

Despite Istvan’s uncertainty, the discussions that have taken place in COR have served as solid foundations for many of the changes that have been seen on campus.

Based on lengthy discussions during COR meetings, Istvan has been able to develop his ideas into documents that can be passed on to Senate, or presented to the Board of Trustees.

The relative success of Istvan’s proposal to the BOT – calling for a required seminar for off-campus students, the participation of off-campus council representatives in South Bend council meetings, the participation of NDSP to help promote community relations and the creation of the Notre Dame SafeBus – can be attributed to the effort made in COR meetings to discuss it and perfect it to serve student interests.

In addition, COR responded swiftly to rising student frustration with the sale of basketball tickets. Following the sale of tickets, Istvan, Bell and Siegfried senator James Leito met with James Freleigh to discuss the procedure of selling tickets.

Later that week, Leito was invited to the COR meeting where discussion continued about the topic. Soon after, Michael McGinley presented representatives with clear revisions to the process that will be implemented next year.

Despite the fact that minimal voting takes place in COR’s meetings, the effectiveness of its discussions can be seen in the success of the BOT report and the swift response to what students have perceived as a faulty ticket distribution procedure.

COR is able to work in conjunction with the more policy-oriented Senate, and is becoming more accustomed to its legislative handicap.