Campus Life Council: Collaborative effort
Carolyn Hutyra | Friday, December 7, 2012
CLC started the year by creating an effective system of drawing attention to the main issues affecting the Notre Dame campus and students. They voted on the most important topics, and overviewed them in a timely fashion. CLC also reached out and included inside sources in their conversations in order to gain sufficient information on topics of discussion. Council members, students and faculty alike, provided insightful infomration and viewpoints that helped produce informed recommendations that were presented to the Board of Trustees.
Campus Life Council (CLC) hit the ground running this semester at its first meeting in September, and the drive has not let up since. While the group has experimented with different meeting styles in recent years, including a committee-based approach, CLC operated as a whole this semester to work today improving the student experience at Notre Dame.
Student body president Brett Rocheleau said all CLC members ranked the most important concerns facing Notre Dame students and compiled a final list of 12 primary issues. He said the council decided to tackle each problem individually.
“[We] look into each issue, bring in the relevant Student Affairs members or the relevant administrators for the conversation, talk with them, give recommendations,” he said.
Rocheleau said the CLC focuses on giving recommendations to the University administration rather than on passing resolutions like other representative bodies. If a resolution is passed, the vice president for Student Affairs must respond within an allotted amount of time, Rocheleau said.
Questioning the feasibility of proposed changes is the primary question, he said, and moving forward from answering that question is CLC’s subsequent goal.
The first issue of focus for the CLC dealt with offering consultation to the Board of Trustees on the problem of discrepancies across residence halls and factors encouraging students to move off campus, Rocheleau said. The Council concluded the primary issues with living on campus were affordability and independence.
“If you look at being at Irish Row [apartments], you pretty much save money from being on campus and you have more space, more freedom,” he said.
Students often desire a stepping stone between campus life and post-graduation residence in large cities like Chicago or New York, Rocheleau said. Other focus areas for the CLC and Board of Trustees in terms of residence life stemmed from a comprehensive strategic plan for the University from 2003 in which a number of goals went unfulfilled.
“[We] brought highlights back to the board, saying these are some things we would like to revisit,” he said.
Some suggestions from that plan included tearing down Stepan Center and replacing it with a new, larger-scale version of the LaFortune Student Center and exploring options to reduce on-campus beds by 10 percent in all residence halls to prevent overcrowding and allow for open study spaces, Rocheleau said.
“Our [University housing] size, if we didn’t want to do overcrowding, is built for 8,000 students. Right now we have 8,400,” he said. “The class acceptance size has slowly been going up.”
CLC also discussed the potential construction of additional residence halls and new senior housing options on campus, Rocheleau said. The council suggested both co-ed dorms and themed housing, but the group’s main focus remained solving the on-campus housing inconsistencies, especially the current overcrowding issue and inequalities in living amenities between dorms.
“The board was very shocked to see the differences across dorms,” Rocheleau said.
Some dorms lack basic amenities such as kitchens or a 24-hour space, he said, and evidence of overcrowding and dorm inconsistencies are manifested in forced triples, a “quint” five-person room in Pangborn Hall and comparisons between double room sizes in Morrissey and Duncan Halls.
“Five girls living in a study area, that’s something that shouldn’t happen on campus especially with everyone paying the same amount of room and board,” Rocheleau said.
The council presented this information, along with additional data, to the Board earlier this semester.
Additionally, Rocheleau said CLC has increased interaction with other administrators and outside sources, including a review of the Call to Action movement, a result of acts of on-campus racial discrimination in February.
“CLC was very happy seeing that the Call to Action was moving forward, and it wasn’t just a one-semester thing,” he said.
The council invited G. David Moss, senior consultant for Student Affairs, to speak about the Call to Action’s accomplishments.
“They want a ‘one-stop shop’ for reporting [acts of harrassment],” Rocheleau said. “Right now they’re piloting a class about educating students [about diversity].”
Most recently, council discussions have focused on campus safety, engaging in conversation with Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) and Sgt. Tracy Skibins to review lighting on campus, Rocheleau said.
Since a new sculpture park, which will be erected between Compton Family Ice Arena and Eddy Street, will include a paved walkway, Rocheleau said NDSP knows students will walk through the area and need proper lighting to feel safe.
Looking to next semester, the council members will turn their attention to medical amnesty, off-campus safety and modification of the University’s non-discrimination clause.
Overall, Rocheleau said he considers the past semester a productive one for CLC.
“I think CLC has been a great success this year,” he said. “I’ve been really happy with the different discussions we’ve had.”