Candidates debate before runoff election
Megan Doyle | Thursday, February 17, 2011
The remaining tickets in the election for student body president and vice president answered questions about their platforms and the role of student government at Notre Dame during a Wednesday night debate in LaFortune Student Center.
Two tickets proceeded to the runoff election today after neither candidate received over 50 percent of the votes in Monday’s initial election. The runoff is between Pat McCormick and Brett Rocheleau, who won 38.07 percent of Monday’s votes, and James Ward and Heather Eaton, who had 22.59 percent.
The runoff election will begin at 8 a.m. today and last until 8 p.m. Students may access the voting website through an e-mail sent to the student body from Judicial Council.
The Ward-Eaton ticket said its ideas reflect student interests that should be important to student government.
“We really want to bring concrete results to people in little and big aspects of student government,” Ward said.
McCormick and Rocheleau said their platform speaks to the idea of “hope in action.”
“The size of our hopes for Notre Dame just did not match the smallness of the traditional student government,” McCormick said.
McCormick and Rocheleau said their administration would redefine student government to give Notre Dame students a voice in larger social justice issues.
“We want to transform what has come to be an institution where we all know the script. What we want to try to do is offer a vision of more,” McCormick said. “We want to try and make an argument that it is a false choice, this difference between issues of convenience and issues of consequence. We think it is time to build a student government that matches the size of the hopes in the Notre Dame student body.”
The team would expand on the Playing for Peace rally and basketball tournament held this year to promote peace in Sudan, and hopefully hold a large charity concert with celebrity guests to raise awareness for a social justice issue, McCormick said.
Rocheleau said the team would create a director of constituent services to tackle smaller student concerns, such as lowering the price of “quarter dogs” back to 25 cents and increasing print quotas.
In contrast, Ward and Eaton said they would make the current structure of student government more transparent to improve communication with students.
Eaton said this transparency would also help students better understand the resources available through student government to help finance better programming.
“There are already councils and organizations set up to increase communication between the different branches of student government,” Ward said. “The biggest aspect here is communication between student government and the student body. Transparency is always an issue. We don’t really see the things that are going on in student government.”
Ward also said the Campus Life Council (CLC) would be an important forum for discussion under his presidency.
The candidates also answered questions about community relations between Notre Dame students and the city of South Bend. Both tickets emphasized community service as a way to involve students in the local area in a positive light.
Eaton said their administration would encourage community service through the Robinson Community Learning Center and other local organizations.
“Notre Dame is much more than just the drinking culture,” she said.
McCormick said he would specifically expand the eND Hunger campaign begun by the current administration in a focused attempt to end food insecurity in the West Side of South Bend.
“We are hoping to expand the memorandum of understanding that has already been begun by this administration, which will institutionalize our relationships with the South Bend police,” McCormick said. “In order to build community relations we think we need to prove to community members that students are about more than just drinking off campus.”
The candidates both included expanding LBGTQ inclusion at Notre Dame and increasing campus sustainability in their platforms.
Ward said he would appoint a member of CORE Council to the Gender Relations Committee.
“We do finally want to address LGBTQ issues directly from student government rather than solely from the CORE Council,” Ward said.
Ward and McCormick both said they would work to establish a gay and straight alliance on campus as an official student club.
McCormick also said his platform includes a long-term proposal to reduce the University’s carbon footprint by 70 percent.
“We have outlined in our platform a series of proposals that will help us get there,” McCormick said. “They center around diversifying the University’s energy portfolio … and to really come together to achieve measurable progress of this school.”
All candidates said they would continue with student government positions whether their ticket wins or loses in the runoff election.
“A great thing about going to a place like Notre Dame is that you know that all the candidates in the race would do a great job,” Eaton said. “We all have the students’ best interests at heart.”