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Leaders fix faults of predecessors

Maddie Hanna | Sunday, December 11, 2005

Student body President Dave Baron and Vice President Lizzi Shappell have made significant headway with the University administration and experienced considerable success in their initiatives this year, but it hasn’t always been that way for Notre Dame’s student body leaders.

Last year, student body president Adam Istvan and vice president Karla Bell struggled to produce on their platform initiatives.

Within a few months of taking office, the pair set up a DVD rental system in LaFortune and secured Fair Trade coffee in the dining halls and HuddleMart, quickly meeting two of their original goals.

But they couldn’t deliver their biggest promise – the return of SYRs to the dorms – and began to sidestep the topic in discussion.

Istvan, who once said the return of SYRs would be “the Holy Grail” of campus policy, shrugged off the failure by saying there were other ways to restore dorm pride.

“I’d love to say that we could have SYRs back the way they used to be, but I think it’s more realistic to say that we could work with rectors and Student Affairs to find a suitable replacement for them,” Istvan told The Observer in August 2004. “They boosted dorm pride, and we want to restore that.”

While the idea was implausible, Istvan and Bell had run and won after convincing students they could achieve the unachievable.

Next came the SafeBus fiasco, where harsh criticism of the fall 2004 proposal from the Board of Trustees left Istvan, Bell and then-chief executive assistant Baron with another strike through a main goal of their administration.

This year has been a study in contrasts, where Baron and Shappell have initiated cooperative conversation with University administrators and received an across the board positive response.

“I’m thrilled with the level of communication … the willingness to meet with students,” Shappell said.

Baron said Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves’ upcoming January visit to Student Senate reflects a new openness on the part of University President Father John Jenkins’ administration.

“That kind of interaction is exciting and unprecedented,” he said.

Quite a change from Istvan, who told The Observer in February 2004 that he heard rumors he was Vice President for Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman’s “No. 1 hated student.”

In a farewell address at his last Student Senate meeting, Istvan revealed an underlying resentment toward the administration.

“When I was trying to figure out what to say at my last officer report at the last Senate meeting, first I was going to write a scathing report about how the administration treats us like children,” Istvan said on March 30. “But we’ve already been there, so I’m not going to do that.”

Baron’s been there too, and from the looks of things, he’s not going back.