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Braun, Reish spar in final debate

Ashley Charnley | Thursday, February 14, 2008

Student body president and vice presidential hopefuls Maris Braun and George Chaimberlain highlighted their experience and passion for the job Wednesday in an attempt to differentiate themselves from opponents Bob Reish and Grant Schmidt in the final debate before today’s run-off election.

Reish and Schmidt emerged from Monday’s primary with more than 48 percent of the vote. Braun-Chaimberlain placed second with 22 percent. Today’s voting – from 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. – will decide the next student body presidency.

Braun, who is the current student body vice president, has built a campaign around several platform ideas as well as her experience this year working with the South Bend Common Council to alter significantly the proposed party permit ordinance.

Braun said she wants to improve community relations by increasing security on campus. She believes that students would be more willing to go out into the community if they felt safer on campus.

“The city ordinance proved that community relations are no where near what they should be,” Braun said.

Braun and Chamberlain listed their most important goals as community relations and “sustainability.” Braun discussed helping to change the attitudes of off-campus attitudes, which would help both community relations and student safety. “I think there is an impression that when you move off-campus, you are a transient member,” Braun said. She said their focuses were formed with that goal in mind.

Reish and Schmidt have been attending ordinance committee meetings for the past few months in order to understand the proceedings and progress made by outgoing student body president Liz Brown and Braun.

“Showing the Council members as well as other city officials that, hey, we’re here and you know who to talk to,” Reish said.

Reish strongly emphasized having a presence at the Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC) meetings and suggested having CCAC members come to student government meetings as well.

While Braun and Chamberlain noted their passion and experience, Reish and Schmidt tried to add to that an ability to recognize a variety of student concerns.

“One thing that separates, not only that we are passionate, we are willing to look at all the issues,” Reish said.

Braun and Chamberlain opened the debate discussing their plan to create student legal services. These services would offer students legal council from alumni, third-year law students or lawyers in the community at a discounted price.

“This would help students try to navigate something they wouldn’t already know.” Braun said.

Reish and Schmidt emphasized the work they have been doing to obtain student discounts off campus.

“It’s never been done at Notre Dame and it is something different,” Schmidt said. “It allows you to get out into South Bend.”

The two pairs then discussed their academic initiatives and how they hope to accomplish them.

Reish and Schmidt argued for an online syllabus database that would allow students to review the requirements of a course before signing up, and they said they would work to reinstate the “Last Lecture Series,” which allows professors to offer a talk as if it were their final class period.

Braun and Chamberlain presented their idea for student-initiated courses. “These would allow student to apply for funding, teach the material, and give them a wider global perspective in that particular arena,” Chamberlain said.

Braun also raised the issue of student forum follow-ups that could be used for the different colleges on campus. “By taking that forum follow up to other colleges, you are going to find a whole slew of ideas and initiatives that really appeal to a wide range of students,” she said.

Reish and Schmidt’s most ambitious and innovative goal is creating the “Midwest Council,” which would allow Notre Dame to have contact with other universities that share similar academic standards.

The goal from conferences with other school’s student government leaders would be to share information about issues that have risen among the schools and ideas on how to apply solutions from one institution to another. “It would not only affect our term, but also future terms. It wouldn’t just help our administration, but other administrations,” Reish said.

While academics and community relations dominated the forum, gender relations – in regards to same sex and opposite sex relations – became the focal point. Both parties discussed the importance of the issue as early as Freshman Orientation.

Braun and Chamberlain wanted to improve Freshman Orientation by emphasizing the relationships of students on their own floors and dorms.

“We hope we can improve gender relationships in that way and make it a little less awkward, and make ‘Frosh-O’ a little more comfortable for students,” Chamberlain said.

Reish and Schmidt offered a different approach.

“We want to focus not only gender issues between different sexes, but with same sexes,” Reish said.