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The Observer endorses Ricketts – Ruelas

| Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sunday afternoon, The Observer Editorial Board interviewed the candidates running for student body president and vice president: juniors Bryan Ricketts and Nidia Ruelas and sophomores Neil Joseph and Noemi Ventilla. After evaluating both tickets’ goals, clarity of communication, practicality of plans and overall organization, we endorse Ricketts and Ruelas.

We determined that either ticket, if elected, could fulfill its job adequately, but we perceived significant weak spots in both campaigns. Both should work harder to clearly articulate their actionable plans and, once elected, the winning ticket will quickly need to achieve results.

Though the pairs presented distinct approaches to their campaigns, the Editorial Board expressed serious reservations about both parties’ lack of specific, feasible plans for the coming year. Joseph and Ventilla’s ambitions include revamping the DARTing system and restructuring dining options, which the candidates admitted might be impractical if not impossible. Ricketts and Ruelas’ plans focused on broad themes rather than specific, tangible goals, but the Editorial Board believes the pair’s commitment and experience are more likely to yield results. The following explanation, based on our interviews with both tickets, elaborates on the basis of our endorsement and notes areas in which the goals of both platforms could be strengthened and successfully enacted.

Although steeped in pertinent issues related to “identity,” Ricketts and Ruelas’ platform strikes us as heavy on abstract ideas while lacking in practical plans. Their objectives all too frequently center on verbs like “evaluate,” “assess,” “promote,” “continue” and “encourage” — all of which remain necessary to allow transparency in student government and open dialogue across campus, but none of which indicate specific improvements to be made.

For Ricketts and Ruelas, identity refers not just to gender or sexuality but also to socioeconomic and minority status, an admirable consideration they stressed in their interview. Their unprecedented emphasis on reaching out to first-generation and low-income students and promoting the visibility of those students’ oft-underappreciated needs earns our wholehearted support.

Ricketts’ extensive involvement with PrismND as a two-time president and Ruelas’ continued role in Diversity Council suggest the pair has the ability to effectively pinpoint problems in their respective fields, communicate successfully with the University administration and push for changes that will foster a more inclusive campus environment. Yet their campaign materials fail to indicate what these specific changes might be. If elected, the pair must prove their ability to achieve actual progress beyond encouraging dialogue.

The few actionable items Ricketts and Ruelas put forth appeared to be well researched and relatively feasible. Their suggested online forum, which Ricketts said would be akin to Reddit, would allow students to express concerns of all kinds to student government leaders and Notre Dame administrators.

Ricketts said elite universities like Dartmouth have seen positive results from similar sites, and because the forum would require netID usernames, he said he hoped users would be accountable for their posts. Whether the administration responds quickly to complaints remains out of student government’s control; however, the site may well offer a more efficient and direct means of communication between students and University officials as well as student leaders.

Ricketts and Ruelas’ plan to implement a Dorm Week, encourage the sale of dorm apparel in the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore and promote dorm open houses stood out as another innovative facet to their plans; however, they could not specify who would take charge of the week’s plans and never mentioned the Hall Presidents’ Council when asked how they would oversee the campus-wide celebration.

The Editorial Board believe Joseph and Ventilla, as sophomores with extensive experience in class councils, have the enthusiasm and drive to do well but would benefit from more time in other departments of student government, more opportunities to work with University administrators and more interaction with the South Bend community.

Ventilla, the current sophomore class president, sits on the student senate, and Joseph serves as the treasurer of the Sophomore Class Council (SCC). Neither brought a holistic view of student government to the discussion; they barely addressed big issues like sexual assault, mental health resources and campus safety. When asked, they said they plan to continue the programs already in place, such as the “It’s On Us” campaign and Irish State of Mind week.

Joseph and Ventilla underscored the importance of tackling some of these issues in the new freshman course that will replace physical education as a requirement. The idea could indeed better serve the first-year students than the mandatory sexual assault awareness presentations currently do, but such plans do not address concerns for the student body as a whole.

Joseph and Ventilla’s self-stated first priority, improving the meal swipe system and grab-and-go options, struck us as beneficial but not deserving of such imminent consideration. Their suggestion to make CIF comments viewable by students who take time to complete their own forms, however, could be a hugely helpful addition to the course selection process.

Both tickets have potential for great success, but they should decide how to effectively address the broad ideas they express in their platforms. Though Ricketts and Ruelas have a more limited experience in student government, their outside perspective on such ideas could breathe new life into the organization.

Further, Ricketts and Ruelas have already demonstrated their ability to take action on major issues that reflect the broad concerns of the student body. They have taken charge of major campus groups and successfully organized coalitions to tackle serious matters of inclusion and diversity.

We believe Joseph and Ventilla could succeed on this stage in the future if they use this year to develop their leadership presence and flesh out their ideas. In the meantime, The Observer Editorial Board believes Ricketts and Ruelas give Notre Dame students a better chance to see tangible, positive changes on campus next year.

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