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Student government to hold trial merger

John Cameron | Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The proposed merger between the Council of Representatives (COR) and Student Senate will be put to the test today when members of COR will sit in on Senate’s meeting, where senators will debate the reform.

The measure is intended to make the Student Union more efficient and representative of the entire student body, student body president Pat McCormick said.

“This year our emphasis is to put the Student Union under construction to make it more effective in its advocacy of the student body,” McCormick said. “It’s really the first pillar of this administration, which is to unite the Student Union and to expand inclusion in the advocacy of student government.”

Oversight chair Ben Noe said the new structure of the group will be more in line with student government’s intended purpose as written in its constitution.

“Student government is not technically student government in the constitution, it is a Student Union,” he said. “Hopefully when we make Senate a body that is really representative of the Student Union, we can create a model of what this more productive discussion can be.”

The reformed Senate will create a number of new chairs for existing COR members in an effort to capture the opinions of students unrepresented by hall senators, Noe said.

“The four class presidents, the off-campus president, the [Club Coordination Council] president, and, for now, the Student Union Board manager and the Student Union treasurer [will have votes], although there’s some talk about changing that within Senate,” he said.

Parliamentarian Michael Mesi said the new format of Senate meetings will no longer include committee updates, which can be time consuming.

“The chairmen of the Senate committees will no longer be in Senate meetings so there will no longer be updates from each committee, leaving more time for discussion between senators on current issues,” Mesi said.

Committee chairs without voting rights, as well as members of COR not receiving a seat in the new Senate, will be able to speak at Senate meetings on relevant topics, Mesi said.

“For example, when the topic being discussed in Senate is related to social concerns, the Social Concerns committee chair can come and present and have speaking rights,” he said.

While the measure still requires Senate approval, Noe said it has been reviewed and modified by a number of student government groups already.

“I wrote up a rough draft resolution that I took to the subcommittee for constitution reform. We discussed it there, made recommendations and changes, checking with [the student body president, vice president and chief of staff] throughout,” he said.

“Then the oversight committee approved it and policy board voted to put it on the Senate agenda.”

Noe said the feedback thus far has been encouraging.

“The feedback’s been positive … People are in the mindset that this will create a more cohesive Student Union,” he said. “The fact that Student Senate will be representative of every organization and be the highest group within student government, I think is a good thing, and I know COR members are excited to be engaged in policy issues.”

While he was confident Senate will approve the measure, Mesi said the reform can be modified within Senate if necessary.

“[If there are objections], senators can make the changes to this resolution itself and they can still pass it themselves Wednesday night,” Mesi said.

McCormick said he hopes the resolution will improve efficiency while adhering to student government’s intended purpose.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to cut through red tape that has been strung together over the course of years and years while retaining the original mission,” he said. “[That mission is for] the Student Union to advance the highest hopes of what Notre Dame students have for what this University can become.”