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Reish, Schmidt talk with Trustees

Aaron Steiner | Friday, October 3, 2008

In their first presentation to the Student Affairs Committee of the University Board of Trustees, student body president Bob Reish and vice president Grant Schmidt explained the goals of their administration and discussed what they termed the current “hot-button issue” at Notre Dame – developing concerns surrounding student relations with police and security on and off campus.

In the first of three presentations Reish and Schmidt will make to the committee during their term, the pair detailed what their administration has already accomplished this year and what they hope to do in the months ahead.

Reish said that when asked to present on the most pressing issue among the student body, he and Schmidt saw only one outstanding issue.

Reish explained that there have been numerous recent arrests related to underage alcohol consumption on and off campus, including the 37 people arrested Sept. 21 at a party on the 700-block of E. Colfax Ave. and recent arrests on football weekends in tailgate areas.

“[Some] students feel they are over-targeted,” Reish said.

One concern is that because there is a perceived emphasis on underage alcohol consumption, some students believe there is less emphasis on student safety, he said.

The issue leads to an examination of the relationship between students and on campus and local police forces, Reish said.

Reish said there are three reasons for the increased discussion of the issue this year. The first is the lack of other “hot-button issues,” he said. Also, students hold conflicting opinions about what was deemed acceptable “in a different time,” he said, and what is accepted today regarding alcohol enforcement. A third is the possibility of an actual increase in incidents, Reish said.

One Trustee commented that he understood the point about a conflict between what was accepted in the past and what is accepted today in regard to drinking, but noted that the stories often become “romanticized” over time. The Observer has a policy of not attributing quotes or information to specific members of the Board.

“The war stories always get better over time,” the Trustee joked.

Another Trustee said that safety issues and alcohol consumption often go hand-in-hand, stating that students who are assaulted are often under the influence of alcohol. He said that students shouldn’t create a dichotomy between alcohol and safety issues.

“Someone could argue that the best way to assure safety is to go at the alcohol thing,” the Trustee said.

Schmidt said student government has met with police force leaders on and off campus, and that the discussions have been productive.

“They have no problems answering questions,” Schmidt said.

Once they have clearer information, student government will be able to take specific action, Reish said.

“We hope to find more factual information, to confirm if this is happening or not and figure out the best way to inform the students” of the situation, the rules and their rights, Reish said.

Another Trustee added that in addition to informing students, Reish and Schmidt play a role in changing attitudes about the situation.

“Not only on this issue, but on all the issues that you facilitate, don’t underestimate your ability, once you know the truth, to shape the opinion and views of the community,” the Trustee said.

Reish and Schmidt also acknowledged that one of their broader goals for their term, improving the relationship between the student body and the South Bend community, is tied to the issue.

In addition to the various groups within student government that address this relationship, Reish said that the Community Campus Action Coalition (CCAC), which was created last year in response to conflicts between students living off-campus and their neighbors, will be begin working again in the upcoming week.

Schmidt also detailed the block parties being planned in four neighborhoods off campus to help facilitate better relationships between students and their neighbors, the first of which will take place this Sunday from 3-6 p.m. behind 109-119 N. St. Peter St.

Reish and Schmidt also spoke about improving the relationships between Student Government and its constituents.

Reish said student participation in student government has increased by 60 percent since last year, and initiatives like the Freshman Leadership Experience (FLEX) and a free DVD rental service based out of student government’s offices will increase interaction.

Schmidt spoke highly of the work that student government has already done and will continue to do to improve the relationship between students and the administration. Schmidt cited the work of the Senate’s new Campus Technology Committee that helped to bring Gmail to students as one accomplishment in this area.

In detailing upcoming initiatives of student government, Reish and Schmidt noted the upcoming Mock Election on Oct. 7, as well as plans to develop an improved off-campus student discount program.