Student body presidential candidates debate policy, initiatives prior to election
Natalie Weber | Tuesday, February 6, 2018
After an election season marked by allegations of campaign misconduct, student body presidential candidates sparred over issues such as student government transparency and the originality of their platforms in a debate in Duncan Student Center on Monday.
This year’s candidates and their respective running mates include freshmen Andrew Gannon and Mark Moran, juniors Alex Kruszewski and Julia Dunbar and juniors Gates McGavick and Corey Gayheart.
Kruszewski said the McGavick-Gayheart platform — divided into the three categories “approachable, collaborative and transformative” (ACT) — contained several initiatives which had already been completed.
In particular, Kruszewski said the ticket’s plans to implement GreeNDot at bars, facilitate exemptions from the six-semester housing policy with a waiver program and create an SAO-based “student leader directory” had already been done.
“Do you vote for student body president and vice president because you want to get GreeNDot training in bars on campus?” he said. “If that’s the case, that was done three years ago. … Do you vote for student body president because of waiver implementation on housing policy? If that’s the case, that’s done this year. If you want an SAO list of clubs on campus, that’s done. It’s called SAO 360.”
The Kruszewski-Dunbar ticket centers on eight platform points, including plans to decrease tuition, adjust the definition of consent at Notre Dame and double club funding. Kruszewski said he and Dunbar planned to carry out initiatives which had never been undertaken before.
“The reason you vote for student body president or vice president is to tackle the big ideas out there,” he said. “We can do tangible things in the departments that we’re going to empower, but we want to make pushes to start conversations that are constantly in the back of your heads.”
Kruszewski said he and Dunbar have the experience and relationships with administration needed to enact large-scale change. McGavick said he disagreed that this student government experience was needed to be successful.
“If we start deciding that the litmus test for being student body president is how many administration people you know and the amount of clout on the second floor of LaFun that you have, we’re going to shut out pretty much every student on this campus,” he said. “And that is just a destructive idea. That’s not the point of representative democracy.”
Past student government administrations, McGavick said, have been similarly shut off from the concerns of those outside student government.
“I think, frankly, we’ve seen that a bit in the past couple years with presidencies being handed down from president to vice president to cabinet secretary, and I think we need an outside voice,” he said. “I think we need people that understand that we have to represent a lot of people on campus who don’t necessarily know every working of student government but have a sense of what kids on campus really care about.”
Moran said he and Gannon — the first Zahm ticket since 2014 — took student feedback into consideration when formulating their platform. The two created a crowd-sourced platform, including items such as a proposed monorail to Saint Mary’s, another Campus Crossroads and two-ply toilet paper.
“I think one of the best ideas was to have two-ply toilet paper in all bathrooms on campus,” he said. “That is a very large improvement we can make to our campus as a whole. We were talking with our campaign manager about how so much of the physical and emotional pain that students bring to him is because they’ve had to use single-ply toilet paper.”
All three candidates said they opposed the new housing policy, which requires students to live on campus for six semesters. Both the McGavick-Gayheart and the Kruszewski-Dunbar tickets said they hoped to overturn the housing policy.
McGavick said in addition to implementing GreeNDot in South Bend bars and supporting the Stand4IX movement, he and Gayheart also planned to purse a “parietals amnesty campaign.” This would allow students to leave dangerous situations — despite breaking parietals — without getting in trouble.
“If a student feels they are unsafe in a dorm after parietals, they should have the full flexibility and comfort of being able to leave that dangerous situation without any consequences from the dorm staff or rector,” he said. “We believe that that is a major student safety issue because if somebody feels they’re going to get in trouble for escaping a dangerous situation, that’s a major problem.”
Dunbar said this policy had already been implemented. She said she and Kruszewski planned to adjust the definition of consent in DuLac and also support the Stand4IX campaign as part of their sexual assault prevention initiatives.
“We’d also like to talk about how DuLac does not have a definition for consent,” she said. “That hurts women and men, and that is not okay. This is a policy shift that we could realistically achieve, and we think it’s necessary and will protect our community and would also help survivors in their cases and trials, going through the process.”
While Gannon and Moran often answered questions with jokes, they said they wanted to address the question of sexual assault seriously.
“One of our ideas was making it a mandatory requirement for all hall staff to be GreeNDot certified, and while we are not active participants in any high-up roles in any sexual assault groups on campus, we definitely would bring in the right people to bring in the wisdom and experience needed to do a good job with this if we were elected,” Moran said.
Kruszewski said another of his and Dunbar’s main focuses if elected would be to increase funding for clubs. He said 38 percent of the funds from student activities fees, a portion of the endowment and funds from The Shirt go to clubs. He said he plans to decrease funding for student government to increase funding for clubs.
“We would flip the percentage and give student clubs 62 percent of the funding, take a pay cut, a budget cut, for the two of us,” he said. “So take money away from the president and vice president and give it back to students through the CCC, and that way in the first week this would be implemented, we would pass it through student senate, and then the change would be in place for this upcoming fall.”
Gayheart said he and McGavick hoped to increase student government transparency if elected.
“There have been four closed Senate meetings this year,” he said. “Literally, newspaper was up over the windows. That is a problem. That literally exemplifies not being transparent. So the first step, again, no closed senate meetings.”
Kruszewski said he and Dunbar hope to turn student feedback into concrete changes.
“The fact of the matter is there’s not a power right now that allows the student voices to actually turn into tangible, real action,” he said. “So we provide what I think is the biggest challenge for this role is changing those voices into tangible action. You need clout to do that. You need experience. You need understanding of how to work with administrators.”