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Student government candidates kick off campaign season

| Friday, February 3, 2017

Notre Dame student body election season kicked off Thursday night in the basement of Cavanaugh Hall with a panel comprised of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, joined by their campaign managers.

The panel was hosted by We Stand For —  a group that aims at “sharing resources and support for Notre Dame students in light of the election” — and was focused on clarifying how each ticket plans to address diversity on campus.

Candidates and campaign managers answer questions at We Stand For's panel Thursday night. Pictured, from Left to Right: Daniela Naramatsu, Rohit Fonseca and Madi Purrenhage; and Sibonay Shewit, Becca Blais and Prathm Juneja. Michael Yu | The Observer

Candidates and campaign managers answer questions at We Stand For’s panel Thursday night. Pictured, from Left to Right: Daniela Naramatsu, Rohit Fonseca and Madi Purrenhage; and Sibonay Shewit, Becca Blais and Prathm Juneja.

“Diversity at Notre Dame comes in many different forms,” junior presidential candidate Rohit Fonseca said. “Diversity is what makes us a great university; it’s what makes us special.”

Fonseca’s running mate, junior Daniela Naramatsu, said their ticket emphasizes and exemplifies diversity.

“Diversity at Notre Dame is the three of us — we have very different views, but we’re free to differ from each other and we’re free to talk about it,” Naramatsu said. “We think we’re a pretty diverse ticket because we’re able to bring a lot of different ideas to the table.”

Junior Madi Purrenhage, campaign manager for the Fonseca-Naramatsu ticket, said a major part of their platform involves creating civil discourse on campus.

“Our ticket is really passionate about the fact that we represent a lot of diverse opinions,” Purrenhage said. “Even if someone is the exact opposite of any of us, we can understand other people’s viewpoints. We tried to take a lot of different viewpoints into account in making our platform.”

Similarly, junior presidential candidate Becca Blais said diversity played a significant role in the formation of their platform.

“I see diversity as progress,” Blais said. “It’s acknowledging all the wonderful differences we have, and that progress comes in moving forward. I know, with us, diversity is a huge piece of our platform.”

Blais’ running mate, junior Sibonay Shewit, said there is “more [Notre Dame] can do to celebrate diversity.”

“Everyone recognizes that ND is a diverse university,” Shewit said. “We may not be where our peer universities are … but that doesn’t mean that it’s OK, so we want to really push that, and start these conversations.”

The next steps, as Blais said she sees it, include coping with the political climate at Notre Dame.

“I think we’re in a very ugly place right now with our political climate,” Blais said. “I think we’re afraid to talk to each other, to have these conversations. The biggest next step is changing that climate on campus and bringing down that hostility. It’s not an us and them — it’s an all of us.”

Shewit said the impetus of promoting diversity falls on student government.

“With every example, it starts with Student Government making these things their top priority,” Shewit said. “We want to be allies for the LGBTQ community, for the [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] students, we want to help with Walk the Walk week, we want to be there at Welcome Weekend, we want to be as open and visible as possible.”

Fonseca said a major component of their platform is the creation of RouND Tables — “moderated face-to-face conversations about critical or controversial topics,” according to their platform.

“You never see people having those hard conversations with people, face to face,” Fonseca said. “We’re going to do that with RouND Tables. If we did it today, we would ask if Trump should be invited to campus. The stuff you see in Viewpoints or Facebook, it’s not stuff you would say to people’s face. I think we can have these discussions face-to-face though. What we’re doing is getting you face-to-face with people who you would never see during your four years here.”

Sophomore campaign manager for the Blais-Shewit ticket, Prathm Juneja, said he hopes to bring together students with different experiences and backgrounds.

“What we’re focusing on what can we do to make it feel like students belong here,” Juneja said. “Every student belongs here, and how do we make them feel like that?”

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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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