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Candidates vie for support in debates

Joseph McMahon | Thursday, February 7, 2008

The candidates for Notre Dame student body president and vice president discussed the issues most important to their campaigns Wednesday in a debate sponsored by the Judicial Council.

Maris Braun and George Chamberlain, Bill Ehrlich, Rick Hollowood and Alex Tomala, Cooper Howes and Daniel Rimkus, Peter Kelly and John Poelhuis, and Robert Reish and Grant Schmidt were all present at the debate, held in the main lounge of LaFortune. Ehrlich’s vice presidential candidate, Michael Roscitt, was not able to attend because of a job interview. Judicial Council president Ashley Weiss and vice president of elections Danny Smith moderated.

Each ticket was allowed to give an opening statement, followed by a round of three questions from the Judicial Council and then three questions from audience members. Afterward, the candidates were allowed to give a closing statement.

Opening statements

In their opening statement, Knott sophomores Hollowood and Tomala stressed their signature issue – getting better toilet paper. The pair said the poor toilet paper in place now reflects the current state of student government. “Student government is broken,” Hollowood said. “It’s not doing the things the student body really wants.”

They were followed by junior class president Reish and sophomore class president Schmidt, who said their campaign has been focused on “bridging the gap” between students and student government. “We saw one major problem – a lack of communication between student government and the student body,” Reish said.

Kelly, who was previously president of St. Edward’s Hall, and junior Poelhuis also focused on a single issue – the implementation of a shuttle bus to off-campus locations, which they feel will seriously improve student life. “The reason we want to run is because we want to do something for the student body,” Poelhuis said.

Braun, student body vice president and former Breen-Phillips senator and Chamberlain, the Sorin senator, stressed their experience and their desire to implement policies that will impact the student body on a “day-to-day basis.” “When George and I are asked to describe what our platform is all about, we say student life improvement,” Braun said.

Although his running mate was not present, Ehrlich, a junior from Stanford Hall, said their platform was made up of fun ideas that are also feasible, including adding a tetherball pole to North and South Quads. “We always want to ask, ‘Is it possible?'” Ehrlich said.

Wearing shiny gold pants, Zahm freshmen Howes and Rimkus argued their lack of experience is made up for with their interesting ideas, including an embargo on all British goods. “Our names don’t matter, our issues matter,” Howes said. “The only thing louder than these pants should be the voice of the student body.”


Weiss first asked candidates to explain their campaign’s most important idea.

Hollowood said getting better toilet paper is most important. “There should be warning labels on this stuff,” he said, while holding up a piece of the current toilet paper being used on campus.

Reish and Grant said they have done extensive research talking to other Midwest schools, and they believe getting student discounts off-campus is very important. “It is one of the biggest issues that really affect student life,” Schmidt said.

Emphasizing their signature issue, Kelly and Poelhuis said they, too, had looked at other schools, and they both felt a shuttle bus service would greatly improve student life. “If other schools can do it, why not at Notre Dame?” Kelly said.

Braun and Chamberlain said they had three issues they feel would most benefit students – increasing Grab-N-Go points and selection, implementing a book delivery service to the dorms and increasing off-campus security. Braun said she and Chamberlain are working to “find what students want.”

Ehrlich said getting tetherball poles on campus would be a very positive addition, and would also help students get more exercise. “I’m focused on getting students outside and excited,” he said. “I see a lot of freshmen and they’re always inside playing Rockband.”

Much of Howes and Rimkus’ platform derives from the Nickelodeon show “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” and includes using Temple Guards to protect against parietals. However, Rimkus said one should not worry if they are caught, “because just like in the show, you can tag team your partner to finish the job.”

Weiss then asked the candidates to explain what distinguishes their ticket from the others.

Both Reish and Schmidt and Braun and Chamberlain said their prior experience in student government coupled with the research they’ve been doing should attract voters to their side. “I think the biggest thing I bring to the table is the fact that I’m vice president right now,” said Braun. “There really is no substitute for experience.”

Although the other tickets have little or no student government experience, they are hoping their ideas appeal to voters. “We have no experience and we don’t know how to run a bureaucracy,” said Hollowood of himself and Tomala. “We just want to get better toilet paper.”

Ehrlich echoed these sentiments, saying what he lacks in experience he makes up for in enthusiasm. “I wanted to see someone who is running a good campaign but not taking themselves too seriously,” he said. “It’s not mutually exclusive being serious and fun.”

The final question from the Judicial Council asked how candidates would make student government more accessible to their constituency.

Most candidates responded that they would ask students what they want through surveys and personal interaction. “We want to create transparency in student government,” said Reish, whose Web site, bobandgrant.com, includes a student census section asking for input for their platform. “We want to get students on the second floor of LaFortune.”

Ehrlich said he believes student government is very accessible; however, people don’t feel that it is necessary to interact with it until a concerning issue arises.

Student input

One audience member asked how the candidates plan to help the environment. All said they thought it was an important issue, and they supported the efforts of GreenND.

Kelly and Poelhuis said they support giving students incentives to reduce their waste, such as rewarding the dorm that cuts down most on energy use. “I think the vast majority of students are apathetic about the environment,” Kelly said. “You need to give people incentives to get them to cut down.”

Another audience member asked how candidates plan to improve diversity.

Reish and Schmidt said they believe multicultural issues are very important. “We want to have courses related to multicultural issues,” Schmidt said.

Ehrlich, who is the only candidate to openly advocate a University-recognized Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) club, said Notre Dame’s current diversity policies are failing, and the University needs to reflect on its current record. “I feel very concerned about diversity,” he said.

“Along the surface there may be diversity, but we are all from the same socio-economic background. Notre Dame likes to talk about diversity but it needs to hold a mirror to itself.”

The final question asked was whether they would sacrifice their candidacy in return for Notre Dame winning a National Championship, to which all of the candidates responded yes.

“It’s been a long time since Notre Dame has seen a National Championship,” said Braun. “If George and I never get to see the light of the second floor of LaFortune in return, that’s OK.”

In their closing statements, the candidates reiterated the issues most important to them and asked the audience for support.

Voting will take place Feb. 11 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.