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SMC, HCC not represented at CCAC

John Tierney | Thursday, February 28, 2008

When the Community Campus Action Coalition (CCAC) met for the first time last Wednesday, both Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College did not join the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) and the City of South Bend in attendance.

Both colleges insist that they did not receive invitations to or notifications about the meeting. CCAC Chairman and Councilman-at-large Al “Buddy” Kirsits said that invitations were sent to both institutions.

“They did not respond to our letters,” Kirsits said.

Tina Holland, the Holy Cross College senior vice president of student life, disagreed with Kirsits, saying the letters weren’t sent to Holy Cross.

“Nobody at the College received an invitation for the CCAC,” she said. “I received a message from my contact at Saint Mary’s, and she said that she did not receive one either.”

Furthermore, Holland said that Holy Cross was never notified that a meeting was being planned. “We knew nothing about the meeting,” Holland said.

She learned of the meeting through The Observer’s coverage of the event last Thursday, she said. “It’s pretty disturbing to have found out about it in the paper and be accused of not having answered messages,” she said.

Saint Mary’s College President Carol Ann Mooney said via an e-mail that her institution was not notified either.

“Saint Mary’s did not receive an invitation to attend. Consequently, Saint Mary’s did not send a representative,” she said.

Even so, Father Mark Poorman, Notre Dame’s vice president for student affairs, said that Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross are included in the overall plan for the CCAC.

“There are spaces provided for Notre Dame, IUSB, Holy Cross College and Saint Mary’s College,” he said. “The CCAC was constituted with Notre Dame, IUSB, Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s. There are 21 people on the CCAC and there were always positions set aside for those schools, too.”

Kirsits confirmed Poorman’s statement that positions are reserved on the CCAC for Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross, saying that each of the four institutions can have one student and one administrator representative on the committee.

Kirsits did not personally send or deliver the invitations for the Feb. 20 meeting to Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s, but he said Wednesday he is positive that they were mailed.

“The City Clerk’s Office handles sending letters and making phone calls,” he said. “They’re pretty capable of notifying all kinds of developers [about zoning hearings] and the businesses always get those. I would trust our Clerk’s Office did a good job with that. Somebody [at Saint Mary’s or Holy Cross] just probably looked at it and flipped it aside or something like that,” he said.

Holland said there is no way the invitation would get misplaced at Holy Cross.

“We’re a pretty small place,” she said. “If somebody calls, you’re going to know. You’re not going to get lost in any bureaucracy here.”

Poorman said he offered to provide contact information for Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross to the CCAC last week.

“They had a hard time getting hold of them, so I said I’d be happy to provide contact information, so at least they’d have a place to start,” he said.

Both Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross intend to send representatives to the next meeting, following a formal invitation.

“Holy Cross College has always stepped up to work with council members,” Holland said. “We are very interested in our relationships with folks in town, and certainly have no reason to ignore any opportunities to get involved in something as important as this.”

Mooney also said that Saint Mary’s plans to participate in the group if an invitation is received.

“Our decision about participation will not be influenced by our not having been present for the initial meeting,” she said. “We are looking forward to the next meeting.”

Kirsits said the colleges will be invited again to the second meeting.

“We have indications that [their absence] is going to change. There’s been communication that they will participate,” he said.

Despite the controversy regarding the invitations to the first meeting, all parties said the CCAC could play an important role.

“It is very important for all the colleges and universities in South Bend to be in contact and work with the city,” Mooney said. “Our students attend activities, shop and live in South Bend and are part of the community.”

Poorman agreed that every institution needs to be represented at the group.

“All four schools have a stake in the discussion. These are common concerns of the various schools and the local community,” Poorman said.

Kirsits also stressed the importance of the CCAC to make the city more comfortable for everybody.

“We need to iron out problems with parties and make sure students are respectful of neighbors and make the neighborhood safer for students,” Kirsits said. “We’re looking for ideas and communication.”