Six tickets vie to lead student body
Joseph McMahon | Monday, February 4, 2008
With platforms ranging from revamping Webmail to providing free DVD rentals to advocating implementation of a nuclear power plant on campus, the six tickets running for Notre Dame student body president and vice president all have different visions for improving student life.
Maris Braun and George Chamberlain, Bill Ehrlich and Michael Roscitt, Rick Hollowood and Alex Tomala, Cooper Howes and Daniel Rimkus, Peter Kelly and John Poelhuis, and Robert Reish and Grant Schmidt will compete in this year’s student body elections, the Judicial Council said last week in an e-mail to the student body.
After a year of leadership under an all-female executive administration, this year’s tickets include only one female – current student body vice president Maris Braun.
Braun, a junior from Breen-Phillips, is running for student body president with junior George Chamberlain, the Sorin senator.
Their platform includes a number of initiatives focused on improving the lives of Notre Dame students, including implementing a book delivery service to the dorms, increasing the points allotted to a Grab-and-Go meal, improving the Webmail system, and placing a coffee kiosk in the Hesburgh Library.
“I would define our platform as a student life improvement platform,” Braun said. “I think when you look at a student’s experience, the stuff that matters the most to them are the stuff that impacts them on a day-to-day basis, and I think that a large part of our platform is geared towards that.”
Braun said improving relations with the South Bend community is one of the key tasks of student government. Last fall, she and current student body president Liz Brown dealt with an ordinance proposed by the city to restrict large off-campus gatherings. Braun considers improving off-campus safety one of her top priorities.
“We need to change students’ perceptions on what it means to be a good neighbor,” she said. “The fact that there’s not an ordinance on the books is wonderful but it gives us a lot of room to make progress.”
Braun said it is important to find the “right student life balance between life on campus and going off campus.” She has spoken with several local restaurants about the possibility of accepting Domer Dollars and also hopes to improve taxi services to prevent students from being cheated by high fares.
One of the skills both Braun and Chamberlain stressed was their ability to deal with the unexpected. Chamberlain said the ability to deal with unexpected issues is one of the integral parts of any successful administration.
“I think that’s really what you want from your student government,” Chamberlain said. “You want a government that is adaptable, that is malleable to the changing times. Every year since I’ve been here, some issue has come up that was almost unforeseeable.”
Formerly a senator from Breen-Phillips, Braun has been involved in student government since her freshman year. Chamberlain has also been involved; in addition to his position as Sorin’s senator, he has served on Sophomore Class Council and as the Senate Judicial Council liaison.
“Experience speaks a lot larger than anything else does, and if George and I were elected our experience would play into how we approach a lot of the issues,” Braun said.
Juniors Bill Ehrlich and Mike Roscitt, both from Stanford Hall, base their platform on “taking a different approach to student government,” Roscitt said.
“We plan to spice up the campaign a little bit,” Ehrlich added. “I guess you could call our campaign slogan ‘Serious. Seriously fun.'”
The pair has outlined four initiatives for its term. The first would be to erect tetherball poles on North and South Quad.
“This kind of thing would be a good way of bringing people together,” Ehrlich said, lamenting the fact that too often he sees students playing video games and watching television during their free time. “Plus, they’re not hard to install.”
A second goal Ehrlich and Roscitt have is to turn the reflecting pool in front of the library into an ice skating rink during the winter, again reasoning that it would be a successful way of bringing the student body together.
The third goal the two have is to continue addressing issues with developing countries.
“It’s not an issue on campus that is seriously lacking,” said Roscitt, who just returned from studying abroad in Uganda. “I think that the University has done a lot of good things with this issue,” he said, referring to endeavors like Notre Dame’s Millennium Village Project.
The pair also wants to establish a campus group addressing gay and lesbian students’ issues.
“It’s an issue that is kind of side swept,” Ehrlich said. “It would be cool if the University could give them further recognition.”
Ehrlich and Roscitt have managed their campaign on their own and have worked to raise awareness of their candidacy. Their posters depict the two riding a tandem bike and running on treadmills in Rolfs Sports Recreation Center, building on their slogan of having fun.
Knott sophomores Rick Hollowood and Alex Tomala have decided to attempt a run for student body president and vice president. Neither has much experience with student government,although Hollowood is currently Knott Hall spirit commissioner and Tomala says he helped coordinate bowling with members of South Bend’s Logan Center, a home for disabled individuals.
Hollowood and Tomala say they know the issues truly important to students and hope that age will not be a factor.
“We just have better issues,” Hollowood said. “We’ll let our issues do the talking. They’re actually doable. They’re reasonable. There are a couple that are obviously long-shots, but they’re obvious.”
The team has plans to reform student government and make it more relevant to students.
“The Senate seems to pass laws on itself quite a bit more than actually doing anything with the student body,” Hollowood said.
One issue that differentiates the pair is its stance on toilet paper.
“They keep telling us ND is our home,” Hollowood said. “At home, even the worst brand of TP that you can buy as a consumer is better than what you’ve got here. No one’s going to complain about better toilet paper.”
Hollowood and Tomala also hope to make pep rallies more relevant for students, refurbish Rockne Memorial Hall, and possibly add the Wall Street Journal to the list of publications for the College Readership Program.
Cooper Howes and Daniel Rimkus are carrying out what has become something of a tradition: two Zahm freshmen running for president and vice president.
The two pride themselves on having several innovative ideas for fixing student government, including using Temple Guards from the Nickelodeon show “Legends of the Hidden Temple” to enforce parietals.
“We think that the way parietals are enforced now is not very effective nor is it beneficial to any of the parties involved,” Rimkus said. “In order to improve parietal breaking prevention we are going to implement Temple Guards from the hit Nickelodeon series ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple.’ However, an offender can get past the temple guards by employing a pendant of life, but that must be achieved during a feat of strength in the presence of who we shall appoint as the new head of ResLife, Olmec.”
Howes says it will ensure “only the strong break parietals. We want to revoke the University’s ability to give out a Gender Relations degree until this is done.”
With neither having any previous experience in student government, the candidates hope their ideas will attract voters. Also in their platform are plans to construct a nuclear power plant that will power bullet trains running from Zahm to Saint Mary’s, to use American Gladiators to prevent theft in the dining halls, and to buy Club 23 with $700,000 worth of Flex Points.
When asked if they had talked with anyone about any of these ideas, Rimkus replied that “the administration will cave to our will.”
The Hollowood-Tomala ticket is not the only pair attempting to make up for lack of traditional experience with creative ideas. Junior Peter Kelly, who was president of St. Edward’s Hall last year, and junior Jon Poelhuis, who has no student government experience but was a leader within the Band of the Fighting Irish, are also running for the executive office.
Kelly and Poelhuis say they understand the limits of student government, and simply hope to improve student life.
“I’ve realized what’s possible and what’s not possible,” Kelly said. “I think our goals are very feasible. The main thing I’ve learned as a part of student government is what’s feasible and what’s not feasible. [Student government] can’t change the way Notre Dame is run, but they can make minor changes that will help the student body.”
The candidates say their top priority is instituting a shuttle bus to take students from campus to popular locales. They say it will help improve student safety as well as provide a cheaper option to the South Bend taxis.
“Something like that is small, and it’s feasible, and it has a lasting impact,” Poelhuis said. “That’s a basic safety issue, especially when we live in such a cold climate.”
Kelly and Poelhuis have several other initiatives for improving student life, including making SUB movies available during the week, having multicultural events that incorporate a number of cultures into one event, and increasing student involvement in the South Bend community.
The pair also hopes to make Freshman Orientation a less awkward experience by incorporating more events between dorms of the same sex and shifting the focus of certain activities.
“You should try to get to know people as well as possible,” Kelly said. “Instead of trying to get to know 50 people in one hour, you should get to know five people well.”
Braun and Chamberlain are not the only experienced ticket. Bob Reish, the junior class president from Sorin, and Grant Schmidt, the sophomore class president from Knott, are running for president and vice president, respectively.
Priding themselves on “bridging the gap” – their campaign slogan – Reish and Schmidt plan to improve on facilitating communication between “the triangle” of the Notre Dame administration, student body and student government.
The two have established a number of objectives for their term in office. One idea, Reish said, would be to grant free DVD rentals to students, as opposed to the previous system in which students could rent them at the Huddle for $4. The new system would include not only a waived rental fee, but also a list online of available movies and a late fee if necessary, Schmidt said.
Another goal is to establish a Midwest Council to initiate dialogue with other universities’ student governments to understand how they handle common college concerns, such as their relations with their surrounding towns.
Reish and Schmidt say they have done research to ensure that their proposals are feasible – and their Web site includes lists of administrators and universities they’ve contacted during their planning. Among other departments, the two have contacted Food Services, the Office of Residence Life and Housing, and Notre Dame Security/Police.
“I am a planner. We’re both planners,” Reish said.
While Reish and Schmidt have outlined certain goals, they are not focused entirely on a platform, but rather on hearing the specific voices of students.
Schmidt said he and Reish plan to listen to the wishes of the student body through student censuses once a semester. The goal, Schmidt said, would be to see what students want accomplished through student government.
“We are not going to be the kind of leaders who will say, in the end, that we got 32 of our 35 goals accomplished,” Reish said.
Katie Peralta and Claire Reising contributed to this report.