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Rocheleau reflects on term

Nicole Michels | Thursday, April 4, 2013

After concluding two years in the top ranks of student government Monday, former student body president Brett Rocheleau said he felt he pursued virtually every idea he could have implemented while in office.

“All the days that I had, I tried in one way, shape or form,” Rocheleau said. “There’s nothing else I would have tried. There were definitely other things I wish could have been accomplished, but there were a lot of things the administration explained why they can’t occur and I said, ‘Okay, that makes sense.’ Everything that I wanted to try or accomplish was attempted.

“I talked to every [student body presidential and vice presidential] ticket before they ran and every ticket asked me, ‘What’s one thing you’d like to keep working on but you don’t have enough time to do it?'” Rocheleau said. “I said, ‘Nothing. I have no ideas for you, I’m just out.'”

Rochealeau, who served as student body vice president during the 2011-2012 school year, said he is proud of the initiatives he and his team implemented while in office.

“I’m really proud of what [former student body vice president Katie Rose] and I and our administration were able to accomplish,” he said. “We set a lot of goals, and even though we didn’t have much of a campaign to do [before taking office], we had a platform of 34 pages and were able to complete pretty much everything on that list, so we were really happy about that.”

Rocheleau said he is most happy with his administration’s efforts to help institutionalize a gay-straight alliance at Notre Dame.

“We have documented 18 years [of student government] working on it, so we wanted to work with the administration on it,” he said. “Erin Hoffman Harding was amazing. We had meetings with her the entire time we were coming up with this idea, and it just worked perfectly.  This whole past semester we were implementing [the alliance] into the Student Union Constitution, so that took a lot of work, and also, finding the funding for it took a lot of work.”

Rocheleau said he is also pleased with he and Rose’s work toward improving the relationship between Notre Dame and the surrounding communities. He said the improvements in community relations began during the administration of student body president and vice president emeritus Catherine Soler and Andrew Bell during the 2010-2011 school year.

Rocheleau said 250 people were arrested during the first two weeks of the fall 2010 semester, which prompted Soler and Bell’s administration to focus on improving relationships with local law enforcement. During the past two years, Rocheleau and the rest of student government continued to work on these relationships, he said.

“Catherine and Andrew left with hope, but no clue about how that relationship was going to carry forward,” Rocheleau said. “[Student body president emeritus Pat McCormick] and myself and Katie Rose worked with the chiefs of police in all these different meetings. Now there is this whole system with the warnings, no one is getting arrested anymore unless they start screaming at a police officer or something.

“That relationship was pretty bad, and Notre Dame and the police were at odds, but now they’re working together. Hopefully Alex and Nancy will – I know they will – continue that relationship and keep it growing so that South Bend and Notre Dame work together, not against each other.”
Increasing communication with local police forces and with South Bend through avenues like the Community/Campus Advisory Coalition played a critical role in improving overall community relations, Rocheleau said.

“Just having those windows to talk to the chiefs of police, to get on that same wavelength, has helped us so much, too,” he said. “Everyone was working together. Whenever the police officers saw students it was in a Saturday-night light, which wasn’t preferable to students, but seeing us on a normal day, talking, and seeing that we wanted to work with them and not against them – I think that helped a lot.”

Keeping the student body informed about student government’s initiatives challenged his administration, Rocheleau said.

“I think we had an unfortunate time because we did things, but we didn’t necessarily go crazy publicizing them or talking about what we did because we just thought, ‘Oh, it’s great that we did this, but we don’t need to tell everyone, people will know,'” he said. “We told senators, hall presidents. … I think it was a tough situation for us first semester with the [national] presidential election and a 12-0 football team. Student government got pushed to the background a little bit, not for us, but in the student body’s eyes.”

Rocheleau advised Alex Coccia and Nancy Joyce, student body president and vice president, respectively, to focus on communicating well with other entities in the community.

“Communication is key,” Rocheleau said. “Try to reach out and build relationships because those relationships are the most important thing for student government. … The relationships that the current student government administration has affect … the next few administrations’ relationships.”

Coccia and Joyce’s first challenge will be overcoming their lack of experience in student government to establish connections with other community members, Rocheleau said.

“I know Alex through his work with the [gay-straight alliance] knows a lot of people in Student Affairs, but just getting to know the police chiefs, community members,” he said. “I know Alex will do a great job, he’s going to make great relationships, but hopefully it happens sooner rather than later. That’s going to be the first little hiccup, but it’s going to be fine.”

Rocheleau, who will work in investment banking for Credit Suisse in Chicago after graduation, said the transition to the new administration was very smooth.  

“We were happy to see Alex and their administration being really eager to take over office,” Rocheleau said. “We left it in capable hands. I’m feeling good. It’s bittersweet being done, but it’s also relieving to know that I can enjoy my last six weeks of senior year.”

Former student body vice president Katie Rose declined to be interviewed for this article.  

Contact Nicole Michels at nmichels@nd.edu