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Student government changes hands

Joseph McMahon | Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When outgoing student body president Grant Schmidt and vice president Cynthia Weber entered office a year ago, the duo was determined to enact initiatives to make student government relevant to the student body.

“We didn’t take on personal preferences,” Schmidt said. “Students were constantly giving us feedback. It made our jobs a lot easier.”

The administration soon found the best way to find out what students cared about was not through formal student surveys, but just by talking to students.

“A lot of it is informal,” Weber said. “If you want to get the real opinions of students, you just need to be a real student.”

From large programs ranging from the restructuring of commencement and the introduction of Transpo Route 7A to small things like having baskets of mints outside the dining halls, Schmidt and Weber said they attempted to focus their agenda on improving everyday student life at the University.

“The student body at Notre Dame is on its toes,” Weber said. “They care about everything.”

Weber said by taking care of the everyday essentials of student life, student government was able to boost its credibility in tackling worldwide social justice issues through programs such as the Global Water Initiative.

“Things like Transpo, which did get a lot of exposure, allowed us to use the support for other programs,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt, who described his administration as “responsive,” said he was forced to tackle issues that arose at the last minute, such as improving off-campus safety after two Holy Cross students were abducted in September and sponsoring aid initiatives following the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.

Another goal of the Schmidt-Weber administration was to improve student government’s relations with the University administration.

“Student government is right now and hopefully will be consulted before every major decision,” he said.

Schmidt said there were not any major initiatives he wished his administration could have tackled, although he said he wished the changes in du Lac, the student handbook, had been enacted during his term and the University had not chosen to move the pep rallies to Irish Green.

In addition, Weber said student government needed to become more involved in the academic side of the University in the long term.

When asked what advice they had for the incoming administration of sophomores Catherine Soler and Andrew Bell, Schmidt and Weber said the focus needs to be on the students.

“Be present and energetic, and love the honor of serving the students at Notre Dame,” Weber said.

Furthermore, Weber said the pair should continue to foster close ties with the administration but also stand up for what is needed.

“The ability to respectfully disagree is key,” she said.

Schmidt said the pair should also be aware of the complicated dynamics of community relations in the city of South Bend.

“We currently have a very good footing with the city of South Bend,” he said. “But community relations is not something that just stops.”

Ultimately, Schmidt and Weber feel their time in student government has been productive and personally fulfilling.

“We wanted to be present throughout Notre Dame,” Schmidt said. “And we feel we positively changed the brand of student government.”

Schmidt, who is a senior, plans to attend law school next year, while Weber, a junior, said she wants to focus on her studies and become “informally involved in the University.”

“It really has been a privilege to serve in student government, especially at Notre Dame,” Schmidt said.