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Senior week changes increase participation

Kelly Meehan | Friday, May 19, 2006

Just weeks ago, attending senior week events was nothing but a distant dream for many seniors who would be returning to Notre Dame next fall to complete a fifth year of coursework.

Since they aren’t graduating this year, fourth-year seniors were not originally invited to participate with their classmates in senior week events like the Chicago Cubs game and a Cedar Point trip.

But after seniors voiced their frustrations last week, organizers made changes to accommodate those who were originally turned away.

The impossibility of attending traditional senior week events had left many returning seniors like fourth-year architecture student Bonnie Gonzalez questioning the logic behind student government’s seemingly neglectful decision.

“We came in as the class of [2006],” she said. “We just do one more year because our major requires us to. It didn’t seem fair because we do have a lot of friends that we made during Frosh-O and from the dorm we came to know and become close with.”

As the incoming president of the Notre Dame chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students, Gonzalez was prepared to meet with senior week organizers to fight for the class’s ability to participate in the weeklong events – something that would soon become an unnecessary action.

“Somehow [senior class president] Emily Chin found out about us not participating, and she let us become involved,” she said. “Student government was willing to have us be a part of senior week. The people from [the Student Activities office] were not going to let us because apparently you can only have one year you are allowed to participate. They assumed fifth year would be it.”

Chin said senior week is officially for students graduating in the year in which they attend the events, however “there are always exceptions to the rule: fifth-year [architecture students], fourth-year [architecture students] who matriculated with our class and fifth and fourth-year Reilly students.”

“[Student government was] unaware that the list we received from the registrar’s office did not include those names,” she said. “We have welcomed all those students to celebrate in the week.”

Senior Class Council faculty advisor Amy Geist was unavailable to comment on Student Activities’ official policies Wednesday.

Assistant Director of Student Activities Ryan Willerton said in an article that appeared in the April 24 edition of The Observer that senior class council members are primarily responsible for the planning of events and that all policies “may be stated on the class Web site.”

Fifth year architecture student Kyle Reis, who participated in last year’s senior week during his fourth year at Notre Dame, said it’s important to allow those receiving their degree in five years to take part in events during their fourth year at the University – a time when, he said, one feels most connected to the graduating class.

“A lot of people participated as fourth years last year,” he said, “and many were under the impression that that was the way it happened – no problem.”

Although Reis was invited to participate again this year, he turned down the opportunity and said he “felt a little more connected to last year’s class.”

Gonzales said once the week was re-opened to non-graduating seniors there were still a few problems with meeting deadlines to sign-up for events, however senior week organizers gave an extension to incorporate seniors who were originally excluded.

She also said she hopes in future years all fourth year students can participate without it being a major problem or issue.

“At first not being invited to participate in senior week events was a pretty big problem,” she said, “but in the end it turned out okay.”