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Candidates debate platforms

Megan Doyle | Thursday, February 10, 2011

Candidates for 2011-2012 student body president and vice president debated their platforms and presented ideas for improving life at Notre Dame at a Wednesday night debate in LaFortune Student Center.

Five tickets will be on Monday’s ballot. The candidates answered questions from Michael Thomas, vice president of elections for Judicial Council, on their plans to improve student life and student government.

Candidates Catherine Soler and Emily LeStrange touted their knowledge of student government as their biggest asset.

“Our experience is really a great advantage because there has never been the opportunity to have this continuity of leadership,” Soler said. “That takes a long time to develop. A huge part of when we started here was figuring out how to navigate through the administration and through student government so after this year we would save an incredible amount of time in transition.”

Soler currently serves as student body president, and LeStrange is chair of the off-campus concerns council.

“Looking to the next administration, we are really focusing on doing things in the academic world. For example, we have a really great plan to improve tutoring resources,” LeStrange said.

While presidential candidate Pat McCormick and running mate Brett Rocheleau both currently serve in student government, they proposed a reinvention of student government as a platform for larger social justice issues.

“Are we going to have the student government we have always had, or can we build this bigger? Can we re-imagine what student government is about? We have outlined a series of proposals in our platform that we think will do this,” McCormick said. “We think we can make Notre Dame the moral conscience of higher education in the United States.”

Junior class president James Ward and freshman class president Heather Eaton presented their platform as modeled solely and specifically on student ideas.

“We heard a lot of people complain that student government just works for themselves as an institution,” Eaton said. “Which is why we are running on platforms that are all student ideas. The things we are running for are things that we know you want to hear.”

Presidential candidate Ricky Bevington and vice presidential candidate Olivia Colangelo said they want to bring more unity to campus.

“The primary way we would like to improve campus life is by providing more opportunities for the student body to come together as one student body,” Bevington said.

Their ideas included a student body prayer service, a student-to-student advice network and student pep rallies for more sports.

The candidates outlined their plans to improve day-to-day student life.

Eaton said she and Ward would revamp the current system for online course registration, increase the number of points for Grab n’ Go and install more power outlets in the Hesburgh Library and LaFortune Student Center.

McCormick said he would create new ways for students to contact student government with ideas. He and Rocheleau also promised to make the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) more accessible to students and open a pub for students and professors to meet casually.

“We think we have the most advanced student services platform of any ticket here,” McCormick said.

Soler and LeStrange said they plan to begin “Whine Wednesdays” to receive consistent student feedback.

They also said their administration would work to install lights on McGlinn Fields, build a heated bus stop at Library Circle and engage more with Hall Presidents’ Council. LeStrange said her ticket wants to improve kitchen and exercise facilities in many older dorms.

Bevington and Colangelo discussed a plan to review the differences between residence halls.

“We have a really unique residence life structure here, and we don’t want to change that,” Colangelo said. “But there are obviously ways we could make it better.”

McCormick said he and Rocheleau would expand student government to make its governing body more effective. They would create a committee to work on small issues, such as printing quotas and dining hall suggestions, brought forward by students.

Their points at the debate also included popular campaign promises, such as restoring the price of hot dogs in the Huddle to 25 cents. McCormick outlined plans for a large charity concert in the Joyce Center or Notre Dame stadium.

Ward said he would like to analyze the financial aid system and establish a tiered tuition system similar to those used at Harvard and Yale.

The Eaton-Ward ticket also offered ideas about drinking culture and disciplinary records, such as removing first-year offenses from students’ permanent records.

“We want to address some of the drinking culture here on campus, in particular the ban on drinking games and the affect it has to student life,” Ward said.

Candidates Kevin Noonan and Matthew Thomas formed the perennial Zahm Hall ticket and received loud support from fellow Zahmbies in the audience.

Noonan and Thomas proposed “hangover hours” in the dining halls on Saturday and Sunday afternoons with a “firm no-speaking-above-a-whisper policy, dim lights, free Advil and no offensive food.”

The ticket also campaigned to remove Mod Quad from Notre Dame and install a weather-control dome over campus.

Voting will be held Monday. Students will receive an e-mail from the Judicial Council directing them to the voting website, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A ticket must win 50 percent of the student body vote to win the election, and the large number of tickets will likely send the election to a runoff, Thomas said. Another debate would be held between the remaining candidates before the runoff election.