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Members debate off-campus representation

Matt Bramanti | Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Members of the Council of Representatives gathered Monday to discuss off-campus representation in the Student Senate, as well as the ongoing revisions to the student union constitution.

The meeting’s debate centered on the contentious issue of how off-campus students should be represented in the senate. Off-campus president Sarah Blake – who has made the issue a key topic of her term – presented a resolution that would give off-campus residents two seats on the policy-making body. The off-campus population, which accounts for more than one-fifth of the undergraduate student body, is currently represented by one senator, as is each residence hall on campus.

Under Blake’s proposal, off-campus students would elect one senator from each sex, a move Blake said would allow off-campus students to have a more significant voice in student government matters.

“Men and women have unique issues, which they need addressed by the Student Senate,” the resolution read, in part.

Blake said personal safety and security are chief among these issues, and approaches to these issues vary among men and women.

“[Security] is something that female students have to deal with more,” Blake said. “Men are more willing to live in shadier areas of town.”

Hall Presidents Council co-chair Sarah Keefer agreed that selecting representatives by gender could improve off-campus students’ representation.

“Girls have different concerns than guys do,” Keefer said.

Other council members, however, expressed doubt that off-campus men and women are faced with different issues because of their sex.

Student body vice-president Emily Chin said she has not been aware of major concerns that would necessitate such a change in the senate.

“If there was such a pressing issue off-campus, why didn’t an off-campus person voice their concerns about it?” she asked.

Sophomore class president James Leito likewise questioned the need for more off-campus senators.

“If there’s not any big issue, then why are we proposing to add another person?” Leito asked.

Student Union Board manager Charlie Ebersol, who lives off campus, blasted Blake’s resolution, suggesting that the proposal will do little to improve the lives of off-campus students.

“In general, this is kind of a fringe issue at best,” Ebersol said.

The proposal also resurrected debate on a different proposal to create three new off-campus positions in the Senate, each of which would represent a different area of South Bend.

Off-campus senator Amy Chambers said she preferred the gender-based proposal, but offered tentative support for any plan that would increase off-campus students’ representation.

“I have one voice, and there are 27 other people [in the Senate] who don’t really care about [off-campus issues],” Chambers said. “It doesn’t matter where they come from, as long as the off-campus students are represented.”

Keefer cautioned against a region-based plan, saying that it would be impractical to implement since it can be difficult to predict how many students will live in various off-campus housing developments.

“It seems like putting in regional senators would necessitate a yearly redrawing of the lines,” Keefer said.

Blake said that the council should act immediately, so a new system could be in place for next year’s student government term.

“If we don’t pass something tonight, nothing will be passed this year,” she said.

Student body president-elect Adam Istvan – who carried most of the off-campus vote – also asked council members to pass the resolution, saying increased representation for off-campus students is a pressing matter.

“Please pass it now, so we can elect two senators for next year,” Istvan said.

However, Ebersol said time pressure should not be the primary concern.

“Just because this is getting jammed in the week before it’s due doesn’t mean we have to pass it,” he said. “If it’s not right, then we shouldn’t pass it, and it’s just that simple.”

After much heated debate, Blake’s proposal came to a vote, where it failed overwhelmingly. A visibly upset Blake expressed frustration with the result.

“At this point, I don’t even care,” she said.

Council members then discussed a finalized timetable for the completion of the new student union constitution.

Student body president Jeremy Lao exhorted council members to wrap up efforts on the constitution, which has been in the works since last semester. A very animated Lao directed the council’s programming and policy committees to have drafts ready for review by next week’s meeting, so that they can be approved at the March 29th meeting.

“I want to see constitutions by next Monday,” Lao said. “No monkeying around, no horseplay.”

Lao said he intends to publish the finalized constitution by April 1st, the beginning of the new student government term.

In other COR news:

u Lao announced that student government will sponsor a “Rock the Vote” kickoff event at Legends on Thursday night from 9 p.m. until midnight. Lao encouraged students to attend and register to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

u Chief of staff Pat Corker updated council members on the week’s alcohol awareness efforts. He praised Monday’s event, which featured a $2 million driving simulator that allows students to virtually experience the dangers of drunk driving.

“It was really a fun thing to do,” Corker said. He said other events this week will include a comedy show tonight at Legends.

u Advisor Peggy Hnatusko en-couraged students to submit nominations by Friday for undergraduate student leadership awards. The awards, given by the Student Activities Office at its annual banquet, honor the top ten student leaders at Notre Dame.