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Observer Editorial: The Observer endorses McGavick-Gayheart

| Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Notre Dame student body will be faced with a difficult decision between three student government tickets when polls open Wednesday — juniors Gates McGavick and Corey Gayheart; freshmen Andrew Gannon and Mark Moran; and juniors Alex Kruszewski and Julia Dunbar. Each campaign presented platforms that address many concerns and needs of the student body.

The Observer Editorial Board interviewed all three tickets over the weekend and, having considered the priorities and plans of each ticket, voted to endorse McGavick-Gayheart.

McGavick and Gayheart, along with junior campaign manager Mary Ninneman, have a diverse array of both experience in student government and political ideologies between them, representing students from groups all across campus. Furthermore, the ticket developed a solutions-based platform that contains feasible plans for issues that are important to many students on campus, even acknowledging that they may need to settle for compromises on some of their more unattainable priorities — such as working with the University administration to repeal the six-semester housing requirement. During the ticket’s interview with The Observer, Gayheart said their strategy for this places an emphasis on fixing the “little issues that are affecting dorm life” in order to enhance the quality of residence halls across campus.

Additionally, McGavick and Gayheart plan on working with campus safety to map existing blue lights on campus, assess the condition of each one and make them more easily accessible to students by both improving their visibility and adding more. While simple, this is a concrete step toward increasing the safety of Notre Dame’s campus, particularly as the ticket intends to use a map of crime at the University to determine where the lights are most necessary.

Some of McGavick and Gayheart’s solutions, however, pose their own problems. The Kruszewski-Dunbar ticket said they believe they have the data to show that a waiver system within the six-semester housing requirement would do more harm than good, as students who qualify for the system would need to reveal personal information about themselves and then be subjected to questions about “which box” they check off. The concerns Kruszewski and Dunbar raised about the system warrant reconsideration of waivers as a possible solution to problems Notre Dame students may encounter within the six-semester requirement.

These solutions, however, are what appear to be missing from the Kruszewski-Dunbar platform, which contains several items that seem unattainable — such as decreasing tuition and bringing a Chick-fil-A restaurant to Eddy Street. While both the Kruszewski-Dunbar and McGavick-Gayheart campaigns have made addressing the six-semester requirement a priority, Kruszewski and Dunbar are largely relying on using their connections within the administration as a solution, and their platform is devoid of concrete steps to improve life on campus for Notre Dame students if those connections are not enough. When asked what steps the candidates plan on taking to repeal the housing requirement or create solutions within the requirement, Kruszewski pointed to the section of the ticket’s website that lists repealing the mandate as a priority. This section, however, does not propose any real plans or solutions — it simply promises the candidates will “work collaboratively through [their] administrative contacts to repeal the mandate.”

This reliance on “clout with administrators,” as Kruszewski put it, is a recurring theme throughout the ticket’s platform. For instance, one of the most talked-about items on the campaign’s platform — decreasing tuition — depends almost entirely on the receptiveness of administrators, trustees and donors to a plan that we are still not convinced is feasible. Though Kruszewski claimed there are enough expenses that can be paid for through endowments rather than tuition fees, the likelihood that enough donors will endow enough of these small expenses — such as Grotto candles — to actually halve tuition fees over the course of 15 years is extremely low. Even should the University administration find donors for these types of expenses, it remains to be seen whether or not students would truly see all the savings trickle down to them in the form of reduced tuition costs, especially to the extent the ticket is promising. Additionally, it is troubling to us that a major increase in club funding Kruszewski claimed could easily be put into motion at one student senate meeting has not happened while he has served as executive controller for student government this year.

Finally, while many students would welcome the addition of a new and popular eatery on Eddy Street, the construction of a Chick-fil-A during the expansion of Eddy Street is yet another promise the candidates claim is possible due to the relationships they have formed with administrators. But in reality, student government has little to no power in the development of the South Bend community outside of Notre Dame.

Still, Kruszewski and Dunbar demonstrate a commitment to improving mental health awareness and resources on campus that McGavick and Gayheart cannot match, largely thanks to Dunbar’s experience as the director of the department of health and wellness during her sophomore year. Her passion for and knowledge on the subject give the ticket a distinct advantage over the McGavick-Gayheart ticket on this point. Additionally, the ticket’s idea to find space for a new Multicultural Student Center somewhere on campus — especially as various departments are moved around due to the recent completion of the Campus Crossroads project — is a feasible goal that could benefit many of the most marginalized communities on campus.

As for the Gannon-Moran ticket, while we appreciate the levity the two freshmen bring to the student government election, it is clear that the campaign is intended for comedic purposes only, and neither Gannon nor Moran would like to serve as student body president and vice president.

McGavick and Gayheart’s priorities are student-focused initiatives, such as working to solve the root of students’ problems with dorm life at Notre Dame and improving campus safety by completing an overhaul of the University’s blue light system. These are not only attainable, but also would make several strides toward addressing two major issues on campus. Kruszewski and Dunbar, however, seem to believe that connections within the administration and a year of experience with student government’s finances will allow them to achieve the lofty goals of lowering tuition and repealing the housing requirement entirely rather than proposing any tangible compromises to address their issues with the requirement or a possible waiver system.

While strong relationships with administrators can certainly be beneficial, even past administrations with these established relationships have come to recognize that some things are beyond student government’s reach. McGavick and Gayheart, while potentially aiming too high with platform goals such as repealing the new housing policy, have largely set their sights on attainable improvements to student life at Notre Dame.

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