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Student government looks to combat discrimination

Mel Flanagan | Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Over the summer, student government worked as hard as its administrative counterpart to continue improving Notre Dame for its students.

Student body president Brett Rocheleau said the office accomplished its goal of installing a hydration station in every dorm on campus.

“Previously only four dorms had [a hydration station],” he said. “Now every one has at least one. We’re continuing to work on academic buildings, DeBartolo [Hall] mainly, but we’re trying to expand into others like [O’Shaughnessy Hall] and Jordan [Hall of Science].”

Rocheleau said he hopes these buildings, as well as the campus fitness centers, will have hydration stations by the end of the school year.

Student government also made several reforms to the sexual assault section of Resident Assistant training over the past few months, student body vice president Katie Rose said.

“We shifted it so it focuses a lot more on immediate response,” Rose said. “The RAs are supposed to be the first point of contact, so now it’s a little less policy-focused and more immediate skills and things they need to know.”

Rose said the new training program also requires at least one RA from each dorm to attend a more intensive training, teaching them technical aspects of the medical and legal procedures of a sexual assault.

With classes back in session, Rocheleau said student government has met with area police chiefs to discuss the interactions between students and area law enforcement.

“The relationship has been going great,” Rocheleau said. “We’re in constant communication, and everything we’ve heard from the South Bend Police [Department] and St. Joseph’s County has been good news.”

For the first time this year, Rocheleau said the Indiana Excise Police are including Notre Dame in their Intensified College Enforcement (ICE) program. In the past Excise had only targeted other schools in Indiana with this initiative to end underage purchase and consumption of alcohol.

“A few parties have been called up on, but they just got warnings,” Rocheleau said. “They’re doing more if you’re underage in a liquor store or underage at a tavern. If you’re underage you can’t even be in a car with alcohol … Basically, if you’re underage, don’t be around any alcohol at all.”

Rocheleau said he plans to send students a safety reminder e-mail, similar to the one sent prior to last weekend, before the first home football game.

“The police are focusing on disruptive behavior [at tailgates],” he said. “They’re not going around checking everyone’s ID, but disruptive behavior is the main thing they’re looking out for.”

Rocheleau and Rose will also continue to work on two initiatives that became very popular issues at the end of last semester: the debate over a gay-straight alliance (GSA) and the call to action against racial discrimination.

Student advocates of a GSA kept last year’s momentum going over the summer, Rocheleau said. The group researched the backgrounds of alliances of several other universities to help in their mission to install a GSA at Notre Dame.

“Now that students are back they’re doing more focus groups and testing to talk to different students about it,” he said. “We’ll be involved in that process with Student Affairs, trying to work toward something that makes all LGBTQ students feel included.”

Rocheleau said his administration also plans to continue last semester’s Call to Action against racial discrimination. The Call to Action began after fried chicken parts were placed in the mailboxes of the Black Students Association and African Student Association last February.

“Student Affairs did some review over the summer and started working on new policies to make sure that event doesn’t occur again,” he said.

Student government held a town hall meeting last semester to address instances of racial discrimination on campus, and Rocheleau said he plans to hold another.

In addition to its inclusion efforts, the office will also be working on the ongoing initiative to allow the usage of Domer Dollars in off-campus establishments.

Rose said the administration is in the midst of dealing with contracts with potential vendors.

“We’re going to start with about five vendors and do a test, then we’ll evaluate in a few months,” she said.

Rose and Rocheleau hope the proposal will finally be approved after years of effort toward it, Rose said.

Contact Mel Flanagan at
mflanag3@nd.edu