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Government to focus on action in upcoming year

Kaitlynn Riely | Thursday, April 26, 2007

Delivering her first of three State of the Student Union addresses Wednesday, student body president Liz Brown urged members of the Student Senate to shift their focus from dialogue to action, challenging them to produce tangible results for the student body.

“Gone are the days where students only hear about what student government talked about in their two-hour Senate meeting,” Brown said. “Dialogue truly has a place and a purpose in student government, but I look forward to a year where students truly believe we can use fruitful conversation as a basis for concrete, positive changes to student life at Notre Dame.”

The prolonged student body president elections in February – a process Brown referred to as a “spectacle” – fed negative impressions that the student government was focused more on dialogue than on results, she said.

Brown and student body vice president Maris Braun were elected by a majority vote in a closed Senate meeting after they failed to win the 50 percent plus one of the vote that was required in both the general election and the run-off election.

The subsequent impeachment and removal hearings for former Morrissey senator Greg Dworjan – who violated the Student Union Constitution by using the copy machine in the student government office for campaign purposes and displaying “Campaign to Abstain” posters without the permission of the Judicial Council or the Student Activities Office – added to these impressions.

“Over and over again, I hear criticism of student government’s purported preference for dialogue over taking concerted action to positively affect student life,” Brown said.

Brown urged the senators and the committee chairs to combat these perceptions. The members of the student government can change these negative opinions, Brown said, by “aggressively campaign[ing] for improvements to student life – not by talking about how we can change students’ preferences, but rather by stimulating positive changes that students will have no choice but to notice.”

Brown said she and Braun have created a platform to spur these changes. By centering their ideas under five main areas – community relations, social concerns, academic environment, student government and student life – Brown said they can make changes and improvements that students will notice.

In the three and a half weeks since she and Braun took office, Brown said they have already made significant improvements – a rate of progress she said she hoped to continue next year.

Brown said she and Braun have met with the Center for Social Concerns regarding a community-based curriculum, and said they will work on an action plan for this over the summer. Preparations are also underway for a faculty-student debate series, which will pair students with faculty members to debate current events.

Brown and Braun are also working with Food Services to explore the possibility of a guest meal exchange program so students can convert their remaining meals for use by their visiting family members or friends.

Brown said she anticipated that a student government Web site would be created over the summer with message boards and forums so students can have access to their representatives.