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Voters say Zahm is no ‘House’

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, November 17, 2005

Student Senate was all business Wednesday night – almost.

Senators quickly passed three resolutions amending the Student Union constitution but denied a resolution to formally recognize Zahm Hall as “Zahm House,” a topic that sparked debate and stirred a few heated dorm rivalries.

Judicial Council president James Leito and vice president of elections Peter Van Loon presented two resolutions on amending election and Judicial Council procedures, noting problems that arose during the student body elections last spring.

“We believe they’re pretty much necessary,” Van Loon said.

The first resolution, which Leito described as “cosmetic,” calls for additional time for student body president and vice president candidates to collect the 700 signatures required before they can officially begin campaigning.

The signature requirement jumped from 300 to 700 two years ago.

“For you non-math majors, that’s over a 100 percent increase,” Leito said. “It’s a pretty big ordeal.”

Under the current rules, students can start obtaining petitions on the first Tuesday of classes of the second semester and must file them by Wednesday of the following week. The resolution, which was approved without opposition, pushes the filing deadline to Friday.

The other resolution tackles frustrations faced by Judicial Council concerning its duties during election season, implementing a simple majority rule and lengthening the time period the Council has to consider allegations.

A significant problem encountered by Judicial Council last spring was not being able to meet quorum – the minimum number of members required for a vote to be legitimate.

One of the Judicial Council’s roles is to investigate potential instances of campaign misconduct, “to convene if any allegations come up,” Van Loon said.

But last year Election Committee members were unable to consider two of the four allegations that came before them due to decreased attendance at meetings, said Van Loon, who served on the Committee last year.

“Basically, they were just dropped dead,” he said.

“If there’s a violation, and it’s a serious one – and there were serious ones last year – they do need to be investigated,” Leito said.

The resolution drops the number of members required to vote at Election Committee meetings from 21 to 14 – a simple majority of the 27-member Committee.

While Judicial Council is “trying to put a few checks in place, to block off time” for emergency meetings during election, Leito said former Judicial Council president Brin Anderson wrote these recommendations in her transition report. This resolution also passed without opposition.

The third resolution passed by Senate eliminates the “so called idea of a pocket-veto” by the student body president, said St. Edwards’s senator Fred Thwaites, a member of the Oversight committee responsible for the resolution.

The resolution says the student body president must inform Senate of the reasons for not signing the bill.

“We just have to hope if we pass it, they’ll sign it,” Thwaites joked, provoking laughter.

The laughter continued when Zahm senator and Residence Life committee member Pat Knapp presented a resolution advocating that students recognizing Zahm Hall as Zahm House.

“Zahm Hall is commonly referred to but not formally recognized as Zahm House, and this inconsistency should be resolved,” the resolution read, noting that Morrissey Manor and Sorin College have already shed the “Hall” in their names and “such names and cultures build community among the student body.”

Dillon senator Dan Brown opposed the resolution based on three points.

“I kind of get the sense that Zahm is trying to leave the impression they’re a fraternity,” something “very contrary” to the University’s beliefs and culture, Brown said.

“And the general rule of human nature – you cannot give yourself a nickname,” Brown said, referencing a Seinfeld episode where George Kostanza learns this lesson.

Finally, Brown pushed for gender equality.

“Notre Dame has a good tradition of affirmative action. Zahm would be the third dorm to have something other than ‘hall’ – that’s three male dorms, no female dorms,” Brown said. “Two female dorms need to change their names before Zahm can do so.”

Student body president Dave Baron said the resolution wasn’t ridiculous.

“Zahm Hall’s one of the most unique dorms on campus,” Baron said. “I think that’s great, it fosters dorm identity … I don’t have a problem [with the resolution].”

It was a close vote, but the resolution failed to pass.

Two speakers addressed the Senate from the podium at the beginning of the meeting.

Senior Ashley Lucchese, president of the Dance Company of Notre Dame, spoke about her group’s frustration with restricted access to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Last semester, when the Dance Company’s secretary contacted DPAC Executive Director John Haynes about trying to get space for one of its biannual performances, “his response came as quite a shock to us,” Lucchese said.

Haynes referred to student groups using DPAC space “with incremental costs … thus suggesting that our inability to [pay fees] was one of the reasons we may never dance there,” Lucchese said, also noting that Haynes compared DPAC “to a museum that makes curatorial decisions” about what art hangs on its walls.

“The lack of student voice, the failure to take us seriously, the lack to give us the respect we deserve” was most disturbing, she said.

University Affairs committee chair Matt Walsh said his committee would be working with Lucchese and the Dance Company of Notre Dame to confront the issue.

Senior Chris DeStephano spoke at the podium to promote the upcoming World Aids Day 2005 events at Notre Dame.

A pre-med student, DeStephano said he returned from an International Summer Service Learning Project in Africa “very moved by the experience.”

“I saw what conditions they were facing, how little attention was paid to the issues [of HIV and AIDS],” he said.

Noticing Notre Dame’s “little attention to global health issues,” the worldwide stigma associated with AIDS and media coverage of the recent G8 summit and Live 8 concert, DeStephano and other organizers thought it would be a good time to participate in World Aids Day – an internationally recognized campaign that has drawn the participation of 30 other universities.

“We want to raise general awareness through dorm education nights,” DeStephano said, “then take a more nuanced look through two panels.”

The panels will take place at 7 p.m. in the LaFortune Ballroom – “Catholicism and the Fight Against AIDS” on Nov. 30 and “AIDS in the 21st Century” on Dec 1.