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Student body tickets face off at LaFortune

Maddie Hanna | Friday, February 10, 2006

The five pairs of candidates for Notre Dame student body president and vice president squared off in debates Thursday night in LaFortune Student Center, focusing on student life, academic freedom and community relations as well as fielding student-generated questions.

Freshmen Ryan Black and Catherine Martinez, junior Jason Laws and sophomore Bob Costa, freshmen Ryan McCune and Tim Szewczyk, juniors Lizzi Shappell and Bill Andrichik and sophomore Erica Wells and freshman George Chamberlain all participated in the debates.

As in previous years, the ideas presented by candidates were similar – especially since a large chunk of the debates was based on pre-chosen topics. But the manner of presentation varied greatly, something evidenced in the opening statements.

Wells and Chamberlain focused on their enthusiasm and commitment to Notre Dame.

“I’m so passionate about this school, I have a Notre Dame tattoo,” Wells said. “This is such an amazing school, but it’s not ideal. What’s the best way to make an impact? Why not go for it all?”

She stressed the importance of hosting open forums, something she and Chamberlain said sets their campaign apart.

“Our campaign is really about a democracy,” Chamberlain said. “[Student government] is a republic right now.”

Szewczyk – the only candidate not dressed professionally – sported a bandanna wrapped around his head and strummed a guitar next to McCune, who said there were “some good things about Notre Dame, and some things that are awful.”

“Hopefully, we can keep [the awful things] up,” McCune said.

Laws and Costa, who used a more aggressive debating style, criticized several aspects of the current administration headed by student body president Dave Baron and Shappell.

“Some of these main points … aren’t getting done,” Laws said. “An eight-ounce To-Go cup? A[n updated] Web site? A Catholic Think Tank [series] with only one speaker?

“… Bob Costa and I are running not for resume, not to network. Our platform is based on your ideas, based on what you came and told us, what athletes came and told us, grievances of dorms that came and told us.”

Black told a story about famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who received a call that a roof was leaking and told workers to “rise above it.”

“To those who would point to lack of experience,” he said, a reference to his and Martinez’s comparatively young age, “the leaders have had their chance … The roof is leaking. Let’s rise above it.”

Shappell and Andrichik delivered their remarks and ideas through the lens of experience, pledging to bring students every idea outlined on their platform.

“We’ve proven ourselves in that experience – we brought you to-go cups, we brought you community relations, we have an ambitious platform,” Shappell said. “We believe with current relationships [and] current projects, we have the ability to bring you results.”

Ideas on how to improve student life ranged from promoting better gender relations – a primary Black-Martinez goal – to infusing the campus with Nickelodeon-style “Global Guts” and “Legends of the Hidden Temple” competitions, proposed by McCune and Szewczyk, who vowed to “bring back slime.”

Shappell and Andrichik said they would focus on increasing student contact with University administration and getting more students to sit on University committees, while Laws and Costa said they would push for weekly town hall forums for students to voice their concerns.

No candidate had a concrete plan to approach the issue of academic freedom, but most came to the consensus that it was an important concern worthy of significant consideration. Laws and Costa took a negative approach – on par with their heavily critical tone of the night – to say the current student government isn’t doing enough.

Shappell said student government is taking a “proactive role,” encouraging senators to collect opinions from their dorm communities and bring them back to meetings for discussion.

“That is the most essential role for us to fulfill,” she said.

Candidates addressed the topic of community relations third.

Wells said it was “not a new problem” and that she would like to see students have “more of a voice in South Bend, more community service projects [to] see that we’re not just weekend partiers.”

Costa proposed a “student discount fair” to inform students of opportunities available in South Bend.

“This is a community, a town we can embrace, a city we can embrace,” he said.

Defying convention, McCune said he and Szewczyk were not focusing on the relationship with the community.

“Boycott the Bend!” said McCune, who made a spin on the Laws-Costa “Stick-it-to-Jenkins” cardboard cutout idea, proposing a “revealing cardboard cutout of yours truly, like from Major League, for the South Bend residents.”

The candidates also answered questions on plans for Student Senate interaction, ways to improve Grab-and-Go, approaches to better gender relations, their relationships with members of University administration and their ideas for improving the bowl game ticketing system.