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Student Senate not ignoring MAC

Letter to the Editor | Friday, April 7, 2006

As one who served on the 2005-06 Student Senate for the University of Notre Dame, I would like to respond to statements issued in Karen Langley’s Wednesday article concerning the amendment to make permanent the ad hoc Senate Committee on Minority Affairs. On Wednesday, March 29, senators voted down an amendment to make permanent the Minority Affairs Committee (MAC), chaired by Rhea Boyd. By no means was this a move to deny minorities on campus an avenue through which their voices can be heard more clearly. This has been a major focus throughout the course of the administrative year – hence the creation of the committee by former student body president Dave Baron. And many positive steps have been taken to improve upon issues at Notre Dame, thanks in part to the diligent work Rhea and her committee have put in behind the scenes.

However, at present the Senate Committee on Diversity Affairs is in existence for a seemingly similar goal, as its name clearly states. Certainly it is not farfetched for the two committees to collaborate on large-scale diversity issues, which they have on a semi-frequent basis. However, when push comes to shove, where do the two differ? The Student Union Constitution reads as follows: “The Committee on Diversity Affairs shall address issues of multiculturalism and diversity and make appropriate recommendations to the Senate.” My main concern is that these lines of text are far too vague to discern some level of distinction between Diversity Affairs and MAC, which in its current form perseveres for the same goals.

Yes, something does need to be done. Yes, the two committees need to be distinct. But, first and foremost, the line between the committees needs to be clearly drawn, and the amendment presented on March 29 did not adequately do this. Diversity can be extended to many walks of life – social, economic, spiritual, sexual and of course racial, among others. MAC, naturally, should speak to racial and ethnic diversity issues, while Diversity Affairs should address issues of difference based on religion, sexual orientation, economic status and the like. Now, I do not know many of the members of the 2006-2007 Student Senate, but I do know Lizzi Shappell and Bill Andrichik. They will see to it that this issue is resolved in the proper fashion. Once this is done, MAC, I believe, will receive its permanent status in the Student Union Constitution. Until this point is reached, no other amendments should go through. The Constitution is not something that should be treated like a sheet of notebook paper. Amendments should be written in a fashion that will make them solid as a rock, thus not needing to be edited in the future.

Lastly, I will speak to a comment made by Minority Affairs Committee member Jason Laws concerning the past senators. In Langley’s article, Laws is quoted as saying, “At the meeting, I just don’t know if people had their eyes open,” and that “senators would have done well to consider the significance of MAC … before rejecting it.” Personally, I consider this a slap in the face to all who served the entire student body of Notre Dame as senators the past administrative year. Of course the experiences of the minorities on campus are important; no one is denying this. MAC has been an invaluable asset to Student Senate, and its importance was duly noted. If its significance were not considered, do you honestly believe the senators would have spent over an hour discussing the amendment? This issue needs to be addressed in the clearest and best way possible to serve the needs of all minorities here at Notre Dame. And it certainly will be as soon as the distinction is made by those in office for the 2006-2007 administrative year. But I find these statements to be both offensive and insulting to those students who have worked tirelessly through Student Senate for the student body.

I have the utmost confidence in the new administration to resolve this issue in a fashion that best serves all involved. It may take a week, it may take months, but it will happen. An issue this big will not go by the wayside unnoticed. And to think that student government will do otherwise is just outrageous.

Rob Lindley, Jr.sophomoreKeough HallApril 6