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Senate votes to merge with COR

Mel Flanagan | Thursday, December 8, 2011

Student Senate has focused its term on improving the structure of student government by approving several constitutional amendments to increase clarity and efficiency within the organization.

Senate passed 14 resolutions throughout a semester that culminated in the merger resolution that combined Senate with the Council of Representatives (COR).

Student body vice president Brett Rocheleau, who chairs the Student Senate, said the senators engaged in a lively debate prior to the resolution being passed.

“It was a major lift on the constitution, and there was a great debate about it,” Rocheleau said. “The senators felt free to speak out. It was nice to hear a lot of discussion and not just one side. It was good that everyone was able to hear the different views.”

The resolution dissolved COR and added six new voting members to Senate. Rocheleau said it was the result of months of effort by Director of Internal Affairs Ben Noe, his committee and the subcommittee on constitutional reform.

“I was glad it ended up passing,” Rocheleau said. “I think it will really help future Senate meetings with more discussion based topics. I hope next semester will be more fruitful and effective because student government is more streamlined.”

The senators cooperated well throughout debate about the resolution and the changes to student government.

“We had an initial document and it changed several times from senators and people on committees talking it out and giving their insight,” he said.

With the merger approved, Rocheleau and McCormick hold high hopes for next semester.

“Senate will be more discussion based, without the department directors giving reports,” Rocheleau said. “I hope this will make senators feel more involved and take on more of the projects we’re working on.”

This resolution was just one of several focused on constitutional amendments for greater clarity between what the constitution says and how student government actually operates, Rocheleau said.

In one resolution, Noe and the Department of Internal Affairs planned several reforms to the election process. The department drafted the resolution after Mike Thomas, former vice president for elections, suggested changes to the process.

“That resolution was meant to ease the process of elections after we ran into some problems during last year’s election,” Rocheleau said.

Student Senate also passed a major resolution on the University’s comprehensive sustainability agreement.

“The agreement is part of a major initiative we’ve been working on over the past decade,” Rocheleau said. “Now we have a firm carbon commitment and a plan of action. Having students involved in that was great.”

In addition, Senate approved resolutions for tangible changes to Notre Dame, such as a safety resolution to add a Blue Light Phone at the intersection of Twyckenham Drive and Courtney Lane, and a resolution for the improvement of Riehle and McGlinn Fields.

The resolution for the improvement of Riehle and McGlinn Fields proposed adding field lights and installing turf in some places, Rocheleau said. Senate passed a similar resolution a few years ago, he said, but the University has not taken action on the matter yet.

“It was passed two or three years ago and has just been sitting on a desk since,” Rocheleau said. “Hopefully now there will be actions to improve the fields with more lighting and better grass.”

For many senators, participating in the group is a first taste of student government. While these younger students lack experience, Rocheleau said their eagerness to participate is why the group is able to be so effective.

“Because most of them are young, you’re afraid they won’t speak up or add to the discussion,” he said. “But no one is shy to give their opinion which is necessary in student government.”

The senators assist Rocheleau and student body president Pat McCormick by providing feedback on the pair’s goals for their term.

“They’ve done an amazing job of giving us a soundboard, a place to bounce our ideas off of and improve our ideas,” he said. “[Pat and I] are just two people who have a vision but we need other people to help us in our vision.”

Next semester, Rocheleau said the group will have one major discussion topic each meeting that will hopefully lead to a resolution that can be voted on at the beginning of the next meeting.

One topic on Senate’s agenda for next semester is the possibility of students using Domer Dollars at off-campus locations.

“I know previous administrations have tried but now we’re taking a slightly different angle and hoping it works out,” Rocheleau said. “We don’t know if it’s feasible but we’re optimistic about it.”

Rocheleau said he also hopes to discuss other constituent matters such as Food Services and more lighting around campus.

“[Next semester] we’ll be able to hear better advice and ideas,” he said. “That’s what I’m really hoping for, better discussion to make resolutions and hopefully be more effective than we were this semester.”