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BOT assesses relationship with South Bend

Maddie Hanna | Friday, October 14, 2005

The presentation given Monday by student government and the Center for Social Concerns’ (CSC) VOICE committee to the Board of Trustees drew applause and triggered dialogue on how to improve the relationship between Notre Dame and members of the South Bend community.

The presentation, which was given by student body president Dave Baron, student body vice president Lizzi Shappell, chief executive assistant Liz Kozlow and VOICE committee members Peter Kralovec and Kate Distler, analyzed the dynamic between Notre Dame students and South Bend community members, highlighting recent changes in the relationship and the role of community service in promoting a healthy relationship.

It was this last section that provoked the most response from trustees, who pressed VOICE members for details about service coordinated through the CSC and student participation.

“[Before deciding] to continue resource commitment, if not enhance it, we should know what that resource commitment is,” one trustee said, after Kravolec said he did not have specific information on the CSC’s budget. The Observer has a policy of not attributing information or quotes to specific members of the Board.

But trustees were receptive to Kravolec and Distler’s presentation on the need to further promote community-based learning and cement a partnership with the community.

“I think the key was when you said partnership,” one trustee said. “I think we need to let the community partnership lead us to giving what they need.”

In presenting the survey results on the frequency and location of student-community interactions, Shappell mentioned that some community members thought Notre Dame students had “elitist” or “holier-than-thou” attitudes when performing community service.

“There is a concern among community members that Notre Dame students are not integrating themselves with the purest of hearts,” Shappell said in regards to the perception that some students participate in community service solely as a resume-building activity.

Trustees asked Kravolec if there was any way to determine the proportion of students who do community service solely for resume-building purposes. Kravolec, who previously cited the statistic that 85 percent of Notre Dame students participate in community service, said it would be difficult to gauge, since motives are not tracked.

Several trustees stressed the importance of encouraging students to participate in long-term, rather than one-time-only service activities.

“I’d like to call that transient community service TCS,” one trustee joked. “Let’s start tracking TCS versus CCS [continuous community service].”

The trustee acknowledged that only a certain degree of continuity could be achieved, since students graduate and move on after four years.

“The reality we have is there’s a rotation of students here who do community service, and leave,” the trustee said. “The bias in the community would [naturally] be, ‘Here’s the latest rotation from Notre Dame here to fill their resumes.'”

In order to protect the already established relationships, the trustee said, the next generation of students must pick up where the previous left off.

This emphasis on community-building through service by Notre Dame students was the primary way trustees proposed to alleviate town-gown tensions.

“I get the feeling that South Bend is a great laboratory for Notre Dame, but how much are the students bringing back to Notre Dame and saying, ‘This is a great community?'” one trustee asked.

Another trustee asked how community members were participating in the “process of reflection” promoted by the CSC.

Both Distler and Kravolec said the CSC had strong ties with community leaders. Distler mentioned that several “partway” CSC staff members who work at non-profits in South Bend encourage reflection on community service experiences, something which helps link Notre Dame students to the community.

Trustees were also responsive to the new TRANSPO bus routes between Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and downtown South Bend as well as rules that allow Notre Dame students, faculty and staff to ride free at all times.

When asked how well TRANSPO had been utilized thus far, Baron said 6,000 IDs were swiped in September.

“I would think from TRANSPO’s standpoint that would be very interesting to them,” one trustee said, noting the potential buying power of students in the community.

There was one flash of last fall’s Board of Trustees meeting where a SafeBus proposal presented by Baron, former student body president Adam Istvan and former student body president Karla Bell received harsh criticism from trustees.

“Didn’t we have problems with that one for students getting sick on the bus?” one trustee asked.

But the reference was brief. Another trustee quickly responded with the history of what he termed the “party bus,” which he said existed in different versions during a “10 to 15-year” period. He assured trustees that TRANPSO was not SafeBus.

“Well, that sounds outstanding to me,” a trustee said.