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Fresh faces take over as new student government leaders

Mary Kate Malone | Friday, April 1, 2005

Seven weeks after being nominated student body president-elect and vice president-elect for the 2005-06 school year, Dave Baron and Lizzi Shappell will finally be able to remove the ‘elect’ from their titles and assume their positions as the chief leaders of the student body today.

They could not be more eager. Shappell and Baron, along with chief executive assistant Liz Kozlow, said they want their administration to restore students’ faith in the power of student government.

“We are going to make a concentrated effort to dispel the belief that student government is stuck in bureaucracy and weighed down by an administration that doesn’t care about students,” Baron said.

Baron also said the number of applicants for open student government positions had increased from last year’s pool. All who applied were assigned to a suitable position.

“We read every application, conducted interviews with each applicant, and then assigned a position to them according to their interests,” Kozlow said. “Anyone who wants to be involved can be involved.”

Baron’s plans for a swift transition will allow the administration to begin accomplishing its goals prior to the school year’s end.

The new administration has already created the “Catholic Think Tank,” an initiative aimed at bringing prominent Catholics to campus. Baron said he hopes to find an inaugural speaker for the project to visit campus in April.

“We are going to try to get someone here by the end of the year,” he said. “We are looking around for prominent speakers to kick off Catholic Think Tank.”

Baron and Shappell have also begun working on the cornerstone of their campaign’s platform – communication. Both said they will increase on all levels – from the dialogue between student government and student body to the dialogue between student government and the greater South Bend community.

To ensure students know their voices are being heard, Baron, Shappell and Kozlow have decided to grant unprecedented access to their offices on the 2nd floor of LaFortune student center.

“In April, we’ll start student government happy hour, which will take place Monday through Thursday from 5 to 6 pm,” Kozlow said. “We will open student government offices for anyone who has suggestions, concerns, or frustrations.”

They hope to encourage better interaction between Notre Dame and the South Bend community, an initiative Mishawaka native Shappell has a personal stake in.

“Lizzie is from Mishawaka. I didn’t realize the extent of the Notre Dame bubble [before now],” Kozlow said. “A big part of our campaign was to bridge the gap between Notre Dame and South Bend. This is the first time anyone has taken on this issue. The community has much to offer.”

In addition to these goals, Baron hopes to have printers, wireless access and cable television in the dorms by the time students return to campus in the fall.

Baron said his experience as chief assistant to former student body president Adam Istvan provided him with valuable insight into the most effective way to manage student government and reach the goals he has set out to accomplish.

“I learned a lot from [Istvan and former vice president Carla Bell’s] style of leadership,” Baron said. “Adam showed me the importance of having strong convictions and not always compromising on them.”

Though their platform was thorough and their promises are plentiful, one over-arching theme defines it all, Baron said.

“Our entire focus is to unite and mobilize 8,000 people,” he said.