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Senate amends constitution with inclusion clause

| Thursday, March 27, 2014

The 2013-14 class of senators met for their last student Senate meeting Wednesday night, during which they discussed the nondiscrimination clause within the student Constitution for nearly an hour and 15 minutes  and passed two new resolutions.

The debate concerning the nondiscrimination clause involved two major opposing views. One group, spearheaded largely by Judicial Council president and senior Michael Masi, pushed for a broad statement that would refrain from naming specific groups protected from discrimination.

In Masi’s proposed alternative, the clause would acknowledge “the beauty and uniqueness of all God’s children, and therefore prohibits any discrimination within the Student Union.”

Other senators supported altering the originally proposed amendment with a revision put forward by seniors Alex Coccia, student body president, and Juan Rangel, chief of staff.

Coccia and Rangel’s proposed amendment stated, “This Constitution recognizes the God-granted dignity of all persons and their right to respect, justice and a welcoming environment, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or disability, religion, socioeconomic status, documentation status and nationality. This Constitution forbids any acts of harmful and unjust discrimination within the Student Union.”

Senior class president Carolina Wilson said many of her classmates reached out to her specifically asking her to vote in favor of a resolution containing specific groups that would be protected from discrimination. Wilson read from an email sent to her by a peer, which asked her to vote in favor of the revised amendment “to promote inclusivity on campus and to ensure members of the LGBTQ community are given a clear message that they are respected and valued.”

Rangel said he and Coccia included documentation status in their version of the nondiscrimination amendment in direct response to interactions with undocumented students.

“One of the reasons it was important for me to include documentation status in our nondiscrimination clause is because I’ve had a lot of conversations with undocumented students who have applied to Notre Dame, and quite a few have been accepted as part of our incoming class,” Rangel said. “But they have a fear that we are not an undocumented-friendly school.

“I feel that if we don’t include them in our nondiscrimination clause, it will only hint that they are not a part of our student body yet, and it think to them it will be very meaningful.

After a contentious debate, the resolution proposing amendment written by Coccia and Rangel passed.

Sophomore senators Phil Krebs of Zahm House, Kyle McCaffery of O’Neill Hall and Rohan Andresen of Siegfried Hall presented a resolution “supporting enhanced communication among residence halls, residents and University administration.”

Their proposed resolution addressed recent conflicts between students and the Office of Housing, particularly surrounding the transition of Zahm House’s five-man common rooms to common space.

The Senate passed the resolution, which McCaffery stressed does not seek a reversal of the Office of Housing’s decision regarding the Zahm common rooms.

Instead, the resolution requests that the Office of Housing “consult more closely those residential communities in which the administration is considering making changes in order to promote a greater understanding between the students and the administration.” It further requests that the “administration consider how to communicate changes in a more timely manner so that affected students can prepare appropriately.”

“We all know how foundational the living experience is at Notre Dame, and we feel that with this experience in Zahm, there is a lack of understanding how deeply the students are affected by these changes,” McCaffery said.

The Senate also passed a resolution presented by Fisher Hall senator and sophomore Michael Lindt calling on the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of the Provost for increased focus on and attention to the Faculty Fellows program. The program is an initiative within the Office of Student Affairs that seeks to have the University faculty become more involved with student life, particularly through the residence halls, to facilitate conversations and interactions.

The senators voted on several different student and faculty awards and approved the assistant student treasurers as well as Irish Gardens manager.

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About Margaret Hynds

Margaret is a senior Political Science major and the former Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. She hails from Washington, D.C., and is a former Phox of Pangborn Hall. Follow Margaret on Twitter @MargaretHynds

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