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Reish to use survey results as guide

Joseph McMahon | Monday, December 1, 2008

The results from last month’s student survey, which was taken by 3,658 students, will help guide future student government initiatives and influence the final months of his administration, student body president Bob Reish said.

“I think this information will be very valuable both in the different initiatives our office decides to pursue as well as helping provide hard numbers in support of some of these initiatives to both the faculty and administrative offices on campus,” he said.

Reish said there was “no singular, pressing issue” that arose from the survey results, but said safety off-campus was a major concern for many students. While 94.6 percent of students said they felt safe walking around campus at night, 78.9 percent of students said they did not feel safe walking off-campus at night.

Reish said 89 percent of women feel unsafe off campus at night, compared to 67 percent of men. More upperclassmen said they felt unsafe off campus than underclassmen, he said.

Reish said student government would respond to these concerns with several initiatives, including a winter break safety forum “where students will find out how to help keep their off-campus apartment or house safe as well as be able to sign up for an off-campus safety listserv run by [the South Bend Police Department].”

“We will continue our talks with local community leaders and members and bring up this concern,” he said. “On the whole, student government will try to host more events that inform students to be more proactive, rather than reactive in regards to student safety.”

However, students do continue to place themselves in dangerous situations, with 65.3 percent of respondents saying they had walked back to campus at night for some reason.

Reish said he was concerned about situations when a student needs to call NDSP or residence hall staff to help treat someone, since 72.8 percent of students who have been put in that situation consider the possible disciplinary consequences before they call.

“For this we plan to do more external research at other universities to see the different types of ‘good Samaritan’ clauses they have in place,” Reish said. “This will probably be a joint initiative between the Director of External Affairs and our Residence Life committee.”

Reish said there were not many differences between male and females responses, but added that “there were a few outliers.”

One of these outliers was how men and women feel they are treated within the Notre Dame dorm system. Reish said 55.4 percent of men believe the difference between men and women’s dorms is either moderately or extremely different, but is not an issue, while 53.4 percent of women believe that the difference between men and women’s dorms is either moderately or extremely different and believe this is an issue.

“The [Senate] Gender Issues committee will most likely take on gender equality in dorms as an initiative next semester,” Reish said.

However, both men and women agreed sexual assault/rape was the most important gender issue on campus, with 61 percent of students listing it as one of their top three concerns.

“Because of this, the Gender Issues committee will be helping host a sexual assault awareness week and giving out t-shirts on the quad next week,” Reish said.

Also of interest to Reish, who had made it one of his top priorities to make student government more approachable, was the percentage of students who seemed to know very little about student government – 40.7 percent of respondents said they did not know anything about the Student Union, and 71.6 percent of respondents said they were unsure if there was an undergraduate Student Constitution.

“As far as the numbers regarding an individual’s knowledge of the student constitution, the [Senate] Oversight Committee might decide to pursue this initiative by informing students about the student union structure,” he said. “This will not take time away from other initiatives we plan to pursue, but if there is a way to combine an event by providing more information we might seek to address this issue with that venue.”

Two initiatives which received an overwhelming response from students were adding printers to every residence hall – 84.4 percent of students who do not currently have a printer in their dorm would like to have one – and the creation of an online syllabus database. The survey showed 94.8 percent of students said they were in favor of this.

Reish said his administration has already begun pushing for printers in every dorm, and last week the Campus Life Council (CLC) passed a resolution encouraging Vice President of Student Affairs Fr. Mark Poorman to show support for the idea.

“Since this resolution was passed by the CLC last Monday, he will give the Council a formal, written response before the semester’s end,” Reish said.

Suggestions for the “Last Lecture Series” were “overwhelming,” Reish said, with the top two vote getters being University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh and professor James McKenna.

“We should have our next Last Lecture scheduled by the end of the semester for the upcoming spring semester,” Reish said.

Two other initiatives which also received support were the Campus Farmer’s Market, which 46.5 percent of respondents said they would be very likely to attend, and the ND “day of service,” which 39.8 percent of students said they would be very likely to attend. Reish said these would be the “top priorities” of the Senate Social Concerns Committee.

Reish also said 44.1 percent of students said they would likely not use Domer Dollars for charitable contributions, showing a lack of support for a resolution recently passed in the Student Senate.

“Since the legwork behind Domer Dollars donations has already been done, we will finish up with this initiative, even if it did not receive an overwhelmingly positive response,” he said.

Overall, Reish and Senate Student Outreach committee chair Sarah Rodts, who designed the survey, said they were very pleased by the number of responses.

“This shows a general interest in some of the initiatives we are pursuing,” Reish said. “Our campaign focused on transparency and I think this survey helps achieve that goal.”