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COUNCIL OF REPRESENTATIVES: Leaders focus on off-campus safety, collaboration

Ann-Marie Woods | Thursday, December 10, 2009

 The Council of Representatives (COR), an advisory board to student body president Grant Schmidt, has effectively and productively contributed to student government discussions and policies, especially in their advisory role for off campus issues this semester.  

COR is made up of leaders from various student organizations, and these representatives allow for increased communication and collaboration between the student body president and the student body as a whole.

“The approach I really wanted to take [with COR] is that I always have something that I wanted your opinions on, all on topics of relevance,” Schmidt said.  

During the first semester of the Schmidt and Weber administration, University and student body relationships with the South Bend community have been central to their focus and achievements thus far.  

Concerns regarding off campus safety, living and transportation have been priorities for the current administration because of their imperative nature, and COR has facilitated the development and implementation of specific initiatives to address these community affairs.

In preparation for the first meeting of the year with the University Board of Trustees, Schmidt utilized COR to decide on and develop a topic of relevance to the student body to be addressed with student affairs committee of the Board.  

Schmidt and COR members agreed that off-campus safety was the most important student concern, and recommended that it is the role of the University to protect and keep students safe off campus.  

COR members were instrumental in the various stages of planning for the Transpo initiative.

In addition, the Off-Campus Evaluation Web site, known as RentND, and the Off-Campus Incident Report Web site are two important initiatives the administration has been working on to improve the safety and well being of students living or going off campus. However, these sites have not yet been launched.

Schmidt has effectively utilized COR members as consultants and advisors to these student government projects, asking for assistance in the writing and effectiveness of these sites.  

Improvements to student life and campus conveniences have been central to this administration’s initiatives, and Schmidt has drawn on COR as a means to gain an accurate pulse on the needs of the student body.  

COR has also discussed renovations to the former arcade room in the LaFortune Student Center, potential changes to the access and timing of student-wide e-mails through IrishLink and the implementation of a student-run advisory board for Health Services.  

“My goal with COR is to get true, raw advice [on current student issues],” Schmidt said.  

Finally, as a way of emphasizing their commitment to communication and collaboration with the University, Schmidt and student body vice president Cynthia Weber have invited several representatives from the University to speak to COR members in order to allow interaction between representatives of the student body and the administrators of the University.  

Joseph Russo, director of Student Financial Strategies from the Office of Financial Services, spoke to COR about the financial aid process at the University and opened the discussion up to questions from members about student misunderstandings and confusion with the financial aid process.  

This exemplifies the importance of Schmidt’s implementation of COR as a channel for conversation and advising, as COR serves as an intermediary between not only the student body and student government but also between the student body and the University as a whole.

Grade: A-

In meetings this semester, the Council of Representatives has examined topics of interest and importance to the Notre Dame student body, such as off-campus safety and financial aid. The group has also worked in an advisory capacity with the student body president and vice president and has contributed to discussions about the recent Transpo initiative. While these discussions have yielded productive results, several of the Council’s initiatives this semester including the renovations to the LaFortune arcade room and the off-campus housing and incident reports Web site have yet to be accomplished.