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The Observer endorses Romeo-Hootsmans

Observer Editorial | Tuesday, February 5, 2013

 

Saturday afternoon, The Observer Editorial Board interviewed all six tickets running for student body president and vice president, and each ticket brought its own spirit and ideas to the table. After extensive deliberation, The Observer endorses juniors Dominic Romeo and Philip Hootsmans for student body president and vice president. 

In a pool of diverse candidates, Romeo and Hootsmans approached this election with a unique vision – a student government explicitly determined by student feedback.

We’ve heard these promises about being a voice for the student body over and over again. We’ve heard countless candidates promise to faithfully represent their fellow students to the administration before. We’ve heard about plans to make that second-floor office in LaFortune more accessible and more approachable for students. But Romeo and Hootsmans outlined a bold plan to revamp the way student government can actually prioritize student concerns.

Their hypothetical first week in office is already scheduled with plans for one-on-one, office hours-style meetings with students, open forum discussions and the addition of a blog component for student posts on the student government website. These meetings would produce a ballot of issues to be prioritized through student votes. Romeo and Hootsmans would structure their administration around student feedback – and this is the first time in recent memory that the student body at large would determine the agenda for its own student government. 

They’re off to a good start, as they’ve begun their campaign by soliciting ideas for students to construct their platform. In a preliminary list of agenda items, they included suggestions that do reflect the general concerns of the student body. More printing stations around campus, especially in buildings like O’Shaughnessy Hall and DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, have been a longtime item on student wish lists. Working toward a day concert before a night football game would be a welcome move for students and fans alike. Romeo and Hootsmans identified mental health and stress as serious concerns, and they promised to address them on both in small ways like finals week events and in large ways like promoting University counseling services. One of the strongest platform ideas on the Romeo-Hootsmans ticket is the formation of a formal alumni-student mentorship group, similar to a “Big Brother, Big Sister” program, that could strengthen the work of both the Career Center and the Alumni Association. And while some of these ideas have been attempted before with varying degrees of success, their plan for balloting students would also allow student government to press for its goals with more clout than before – claiming to know what students want works best when students have actually had their say.   

In the midst of these smaller ticket items and platform points, Romeo and Hootsmans also understood they would need to address a deeper issue at Notre Dame. In the past year, we have witnessed a racial hate crime on our campus. We have taken steps to be more inclusive to gay, lesbian, bisexual, trangender and questioning (GLBTQ) students who have felt alienated in the past. The current student government administration dedicated a significant portion of time to consulting with administrators on both the Call to Action plan and the development of a GLBTQ student organization. Romeo and Hootsmans came forward with a passion for making sure those ideals continue to come to fruition in the culture of our campus.

To be sure, it’s a gamble. While their résumés include an impressive list of leadership positions, their experience within student government is almost nonexistent. Some of their platform items were hopelessly vague, such as the promise to “obtain closer relations between the dorms.” There are tickets with candidates who are perhaps more qualified and more organized. Juniors Alex Coccia and Nancy Joyce, for example, will be stiff competition for the pair, and with good reason. They bring an impressive platform and focused vision to their campaign, and we do not doubt that Coccia and Joyce would be successful in office as student body president and vice president. Junior Michael Masi and sophomore Tim Scanlan also approached their campaign with enthusiasm and focus that peaked our interest. The ballot this year is full of talent and ambition, but no ticket is more passionate about earnestly addressing students’ concerns than the Romeo-Hoostmans ticket. 

Should this pair be elected, students will need to meet the bar they set for participating in student government. Romeo and Hootsmans outlined a platform that would challenge the student body to actually pay attention to student government, not just complain that it doesn’t know what student government does. They outlined a platform that requires us as students to think about and to voice our priorities for Notre Dame campus life. The bar is set, and it’s been set high. 

In one of the most competitive races in years, The Observer Editorial Board has chosen to endorse Dominic Romeo and Philip Hootsmans because we believe they would be a student body president and vice president who challenge us to engage in their administration more than any other in recent memory.