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Lottery includes graduate students

Mary Kate Malone | Thursday, November 2, 2006

At the urging of the Office of Student Affairs, the Student Union Board (SUB) decided Wednesday to include graduate students in the Notre Dame vs. USC football ticket lottery less than an hour before it began.

The threat of a possible protest by graduate students was a catalyst for the change in policy, said Director of Student Activities Brian Coughlin, who spoke on the phone with senior staff members in Student Affairs around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Together, Coughlin and top officials from Student Affairs – who were also concerned with SUB’s reasons for excluding graduate students in the first place – decided “to tell [SUB manager] Patrick [Vassel] to open up the lottery to graduate students.”

The last-minute instruction came as a surprise to Vassel, who was called into Coughlin’s office around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and told of Student Affairs’ concerns.

Vassel was able to send out an e-mail to grad students notifying them of the change around noon and clearly the word spread fast. Vassel said 2,200 student ID cards were swiped between noon and 5 p.m. and roughly 230 of them, or 10 percent, were from graduate students.

Although SUB is solely responsible for the distribution of the 300 tickets allocated to students for away games, the Student Activities Office advises the organization and it delivered an “instruction” that SUB include graduate students in the lottery.

“It was a hard thing to do and we don’t like to do it. … We like to be advisors, we don’t like to tell student groups what to do,” Coughlin said.

Graduate students were originally excluded from the lottery because they do not pay the Student Activities Fee, which funds SUB. But Student Affairs officials decided that reason “was not significant enough.”

“We were completely in support of the decision [to exclude graduate students],” Vassel said. “We stood behind it and this change in policy has nothing to do with us.”

He did not want to comment further on the inclusion of graduate students until the lottery was completed, he said.

On Wednesday, SUB put forward a compromise to appease the disgruntled graduate students, who had hoped to be included in the USC ticket lottery after being denied access for the Michigan State game earlier this year. The compromise would have allowed graduate students exclusive access to leftover lottery tickets on Nov. 8.

But graduate students were still not satisfied, and decided to go forward with plans for a protest outside Legends anyway.

Janice Kenney, a graduate student who helped plan the protest, had made six posters, gathered about 40 graduate students and was “fully prepared” to protest when she heard about the policy change just after 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“I was very pleasantly surprised,” she said. “We were all prepared to launch the protest but we were extremely glad we didn’t have to.”

Student body president Lizzi Shappell, who stood behind SUB’s decision to exclude graduate students, said she was “very surprised” when she learned about the changes.

“We need to see where the communication breakdown occurred and avoid decision-making problems like this in the future,” she said.

Graduate Student Union member Paul Schwamm, who had urged SUB throughout the fall to reconsider its decision to exclude graduate students, was “very happy” with the policy change and viewed the concession as an important step in graduate-undergraduate student relations.

“I think it really creates an opportunity for the [Graduate Student Union] and the SUB to continue to do things together in the future. … I think where we are right now is a great position because we’re all ready to move forward together.”