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Robinson, Blais reflect on term, look ahead

| Tuesday, December 6, 2016

As the semester draws to a close, student body president and vice president Corey Robinson and Becca Blais are proud of the work they have done thus far.

“We’ve been able to do a lot that we set out to do,” Robinson said. “Obviously, there’s a lot more work to be done. I’m extremely proud of our team — they’re extraordinary. They’re an extraordinary team and they’re the ones all the credit goes to for what we’ve accomplished. At the end of the day, we’re always forward-looking. Can’t wait to get to our next challenge.”

Blais also said the fall semester has gone “amazingly.”

“To echo Corey’s sentiment, none of it would have been possible without our team, and they’ve just gone above and beyond any expectation we could have had for them,” Blais said. “They’re a great group of people. Somehow, these highly talented, passionate people who are super motivated to make a change and a difference — and overall improve student life at Notre Dame — all got together. And they all work well together, and are so excited for every project — it’s made everything to do with student government very enjoyable and very fun for all of us to be involved in.”

Blais said her experience serving as vice president has been a unique and positive experience.

“It’s very life-giving and energy-giving and fulfilling and inspiring,” Blais said. “I would say it’s been amazing so far.”

Since taking office in April, Robinson said they have accomplished three major things — creating a sexual assault survivor support group, reforming student senate and implementing Notre Dame for Syria Week.

“I think [student government] did a great job of bringing awareness to a really important issue that’s thousands of miles away,” Robinson said of ND for Syria Week. “It shows what we can do here, now. We raised a couple hundred dollars and got students to know what they can do — in the political sphere, in the business sphere, in the nonprofit sphere, in global health — to make a difference today, so that’s really exciting.”

Blais said the sexual assault support group was an important addition to the University.

“The sexual assault survivors support group has been incredible,” Blais said. “It’s one of those things that people will look at years later and ask why we didn’t have it before. It just makes so much sense to have it and it’s such a needed service on this campus. It’s been very helpful and healing and influential for the people involved and for people to know that at least that’s an option.”

Additionally, Robinson said the reforms to student senate have been vital.

“I just love what Becca’s done with it,” Robinson said. “We’re going to senate and people can’t wait to hang out with each other and pick each other’s brains and tackle these big issues — like we’ve talked about in the past few weeks with the Title IX reform — to figure out that structure and what senate can do to better that process for students. It’s been a great opportunity for senators to really take hold of it and own something.”

Blais said she worked with senators to improve the efficiency of senate by changing certain procedures. In the end, Blais thought the improvements constitute one of the major achievements of the semester.

“We had talked a bit before and named all of these things we thought had gone well this year and thought had been successful, and we realized a lot of them came down to what we talked about in senate and the involvement of the senators and the departments and this great relationship we’ve been forming there,” Blais said.

Despite their successes, Robinson and Blais have run into several roadblocks in fulfilling one of the major parts of their platform: providing rape kits at St. Liam’s in an effort to help survivors of sexual assault.

“We thought we could get it up and running by August,” Robinson said. “We spent all of May and June benchmarking and then went to [director] Sharon McMullen of University Health Services and sat down with her. She was really receptive, but she wanted to make sure we were doing it right. With rape kits, you don’t have a second chance — you have to get the first one done the right way. So that was a really big challenge.”

Blais said it was harder than they anticipated to get nurses properly trained in St. Liam’s.

“What we found was we originally, in the platform, said it only costs this much to train nurses and we’ll train our St. Liam’s nurses. But what we ran into there was that they told us we aren’t able to hire their current nurses, they’d have to hire new nurses to work on this specifically,” Blais said. “That’s adding a whole other salary, so until they’re able to get resources together with that, they can’t.”

Blais said even if St. Liam’s did have the resources to hire new nurses, they worry about the room for error in testing.

“We don’t want to risk students’ health and safety with that, especially with such a sensitive procedure and topic,” Blais said.

Going forward, Robinson and Blais said they are looking to hear more student perspectives.

“The thing is, a lot of students have come to us and said ‘you’re having these general, vague discussions and we want to see action,’” Robinson said. “And I think that’s the next piece for us — coming together and seeing if we can hear students on what we should take action on and how we can continue the conversation, but shift more from just having people sit in a room and talk about it, to having some sort of product.

“The number one thing is going to the student body and asking what they think is important. What can we work on together? And that’s going to be a big initiative we’re looking to roll out in January, to just sit down and hear students in a town hall setting, but not a speaker series or a panel — literally just us sitting down and hearing students’ concerns and figure out what we should put our effort and focus on.”

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall and is currently serving as an Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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