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Robinson, Blais unveil plans for student government

| Thursday, August 25, 2016

Corey Robinson said in some ways, his two roles on campus — student body president and a student assistant to the football team — can be similar. Both allow him to help others reach their goals.

“Here at Notre Dame, we have world changers,” Robinson said. “And we’re just trying to put them in the best position to be successful.”

CoreyPhoto courtesy of Becca Blais

After a summer of brainstorming and organizing, student government is ready for the new school year, Robinson said. He and student body vice president Becca Blais have plans to roll out a number of new initiatives this semester. And they’ve got big ideas for big events.

For the upcoming presidential election, for example, student government will host a campus-wide debate over policy points, with representatives from the College Republicans and College Democrats, followed by a mock election.

“We hope to have a big turnout because it’s going to be what everyone’s talking about,” Blais said.

The group plans to continue to build upon and improve some of the main points from their campaign platform last winter. That’s why they’re here, Robinson said.

“It’s the reason we ran and the reason all of our cabinet’s here — to serve the student body,” he said.

Innovation

The administration hopes to help student entrepreneurs build and execute their ideas, Robinson said, with the help of two main initiatives: the Student Venture Incubation Program and a Shark Tank-style innovation competition scheduled for Oct. 10.

“At Notre Dame, we’re so centrally focused on service and this idea of making a difference in your community, creating social good wherever you are,” Robinson said. “And entrepreneurship has often been pitched as making money.”

But student government hopes to pitch it as a way for students to use their ideas to make a difference in others’ lives.

“I think we will have a huge take up,” Robinson said. “Because that’s what Notre Dame students are all about.”

The incubation program, led by senior Cornelius McGrath, aims to give student entrepreneurs access to financial resources, material resources and mentors. The project will start this semester, with a group of 18 to 22 students identified by McGrath and his staff who will work to develop their student-run businesses over the course of the term.

Similarly, student government plans to promote innovation by asking students with ideas to promote social good in their communities — local or far away — to enter them in the upcoming competition.

Robinson, a San Antonio native, said a student could propose a financial literacy course — an example he thinks would create a tangible improvement in his hometown. The student with the winning idea will work with the University to create an online course of sorts to be accessed by people from the target area.

“MIT, USC, Northwestern, Chicago — they all push innovation,” Robinson said. “We’re going to do the same, but the Notre Dame way.”

Safety

The administration launched SafeBouND, a version of the free campus transportation service, in an email to students Tuesday. Robinson said they decided to rebrand the program, formerly known as O’SNAP, to reinforce the mission of the service: safety.

“A lot of people didn’t understand what O’SNAP was for,” he said. “We’re trying to help students understand the whole point — that this is a safety shuttle service for students trying to walk back to their dorms on campus.”

Students can call or use the SafeBouND app to request assistance during the service’s new hours, adjusted around parietals. According to the email sent to the student body, golf carts will only be used Sunday-Wednesday, and walking escorts will be available Thursday-Saturday.

Robinson said Student Government is also working to bring a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) to campus for the spring semester, though they had initially tried to have something ready for the fall.

“There’s been some unexpected push back, for multiple reasons,” he said. “The problem with the rape kits is you need to have a lot of experience before you administer it.”

“You get one shot,” Blais added.

Student government will implement two new measures aimed at improving safety and community on campus: a sexual assault survivor support group and a faculty ambassador program, which will allow professors to volunteer as sexual assault reporting resources.

The survivor group is the first of it’s kind, Blais said, and was organized by senior Grace Watkins, University policy liaison.

Robinson said faculty members participating in the ambassador program will be non-confidential reporting resources, who likely undergo some sort of training.

“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking to administrators about sexual assault,” he said. “We want to continue to be able to break down those doors and barriers, and I think this is a great first step.”

Inclusion

For the first time, student government is planning Race Relations Week, a four-day series aimed to create conversation about race and its role on campus.

The week — which will run Oct. 24 through Oct. 27 — will examine race in relation to psychology, the presidential election, sexual assault and opportunity. Events will feature a number of speakers and discussions with the ultimate goal of garnering interest and reflection on issues surrounding race.

“Race relations and the campus climate surrounding them haven’t ever been examined like this,” Robinson said.

Student government also planned a tailgate for the Nevada game targeting freshmen who may not have a number of tailgates to jump back and forth between.

“We wanted to provide a safe, no pressure, fun tailgate that the entire student body would have access to,” Blais said. “So we came up with this.”

The event will take place on the quad between DeBartolo Hall and Eck Hall of Law on Sept. 10.

In the spirit of involving students, Robinson said he and Blais have an “open door policy.”

“Come in any time you want,” he said.

Student government has also launched an Instagram account and Snapchat for people to follow along with their plans and events. They plan to release a monthly newsletter, highlighting different departments and initiatives.

“We’re excited that everyone’s back — because over the summer, campus was kind of lonely,” Robinson said. “And I’m excited to wake up every morning to do this.”

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, the Observer's current Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's a former Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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