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STUDENT SENATE: Senate relies less on resolutions than past years

Sarah Mervosh | Thursday, December 10, 2009

 Student Senate participated in productive discussions at their meetings this year, and its committees tackled large issues while paying attention to small details — no easy feat.

Student body vice president Cynthia Weber, who leads Senate, said she used meeting time during the semester to keep senators informed about what each committee is working on, and to have discussions as a whole.

“Sometimes it’s really just about having a discussion because these people were elected in their dorm so they should have a pulse on dorm life,” she said. 

Senate engaged in several notable discussions during their meetings this year, including a one about the intellectual environment on campus.

Most senators agreed that there was a lack of intellectual debate both inside and outside of the classroom compared to Ivy League schools. But senators also said Notre Dame had qualities that make the school better than Ivies, and that this balance is what makes Notre Dame unique. 

Weber said she is working with committee chairs to create a University-wide task force to address the lack of intellectual debate at Notre Dame.

Senators also discussed the role of the dorm rector and made suggestions regarding how to foster relationships between rectors and students. Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Sr. Sue Dunn also came to a Senate meeting to clarify what the University looks for in a rector. 

In response to these discussions, student body president Grant Schmidt said he plans to meet with each hall president and senator to discuss individual dorm-rector relationships.

These discussions helped Schmidt and Weber accomplish a goal of their administration, which was to have a pulse on the student body’s opinions on a certain topic and then form an educated stance on the subject to represent them.

The individual committees succeeded in paying attention to the small details of student life while tackling larger, global issues, which were two other of the Schmidt-Weber administration. 

The Social Concerns Committee worked on the Global Water Initiative, which raises money to build wells in Africa. 

The Howard Hall Totter for Water raised nearly $2,000 for the cause and the savings from the Dorm Energy Competition were donated to the Global Water Initiative. 

Senate also paid attention to smaller details of student life. For example, the Residence Life committee worked to extend hours in South Dining Hall on the weekend and to display prices on items in The Huddle.

While Senate as a whole as engaged in important debate during meetings, and the individual committees have been productive, the group did not generally use meeting time to pass resolutions.

Prior to their last meeting of the semester, Senate passed two resolutions.

The first resolution honored late lacrosse coach Rich O’Leary and the second clarified Council of Representative’s role in allocating funds to campus groups. 

At Senate’s final meeting of the semester, two more resolutions were passed. 

A resolution was passed thanking Notre Dame security gate guards for their increased willingness to allow students onto campus and asking them to continue to recognize legitimate reasons students need access to campus.

Senate also passed a resolution recommending the creation of a health services advisory board. Students who sit on the board will provide feedback and input to the health services.

Weber said she and Schmidt established relationships with administrators, which decreased the need for resolutions this year. 

 “Grant and I spent the summer here meeting with every administrator we could,” she said. “We already had these existing relationships so the tool of the resolution is often times not necessary.”

Schmidt said committees were able to accomplish many goals without resolutions for this reason.

“We could sit down with all these people and talk instead of having to vote on these issues officially,” he said. “Every project that you’ll see and every committee has pretty much been done without resolutions because they’ve been able to sit down with these administrators.”

Though Senate could accomplish many goals without relying on resolutions, Weber and Schmidt should use resolutions to make a meaningful impact on the student body and increase student government’s visibility.  

The recommendation to create a health services advisory board was a good use of a resolution because it has the potential to influence the student body in the future. 

Using resolutions as a means to thank others or clarify the role of a committee are positive contributions, but will not impact the student body in the way the health services resolution will.

Student Senate should work to pass more results-oriented resolutions in the coming semester. Not only will this increase Senate’s ability to make a difference, but it will also make Senate’s work more tangible and visible to the student body.

Grade: A-

The Student Senate as a whole engaged in productive discussions about issues that are important to the student body, and were able to gain a feeling for what the student body thought. This accomplished a goal of the Schmidt-Weber administration, which strove to form educated opinions about issues that affect the student body, based on a working relationship with students. The individual committees were also productive in focusing both on small and large issues, and succeeded in meeting two other goals of the Schmidt-Weber administration. Senate rarely used resolutions this year, which makes their work invisible to the student body. In the coming semester, Senate should work to increase their visibility and approachability so the student body can see what they accomplish.