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Three main issues emerge in campaigning

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, February 2, 2005

It was all about DVDs and SYRs in 2004. But 2005 is a whole new Boggle game.In this year’s student body presidential elections, the alphabet soup of key campaign issues is chock full of “BOT” and “OC,” with just a dash of “U2” for flavor. On a self-contained campus where students aren’t afraid to make their needs known, some platform repetition between candidates is inevitable. If there is one, maybe two, dominant desires or displeasures voiced by the populace, then a ticket looking to address voter concerns would wisely include these in their campaign platform.This year, however, at least three significant issues have made their way onto the same four tickets’ platforms – a situation that either gives candidates a chance to boast that “great minds think alike,” or recognizes the importance of certain ideas to the University’s future and the student body.In their unabbreviated form, the key campaign promises are: the addition of a student member to the Board of Trustees; the improvement of various aspects of off-campus life, such as town-gown relationships and student safety; and the creation of an endowment to fund more concerts and speakers – around which the promise of U2 swirls.The fact that each ticket chose a slightly different approach to each issue places a greater burden on the voters, who must be responsibly acquainted with the subjects at hand if they hope to determine which variation is best for them. Student TrusteeIn Feb. 2000, Board of Trustees report chairman John Obsorn and vice chair Mark Donahey received the Student Senate’s resounding approval to include a section in their upcoming presentation on the benefits of adding a student representative to the BOT.With no serious action taken for the next four years, the suggestion resurfaced last year in the Charlie Ebersol-James Leito platform. During the campaign, Ebersol said his objective was to have the student body president sit on the Board of Trustees so there would be a student voice in the administration, even if the student member was not granted a vote. After that election, its winners, current student body president Adam Istvan and vice president Karla Bell, said they would look into continuing the push for a student trustee, but no visible progress was made on the issue during their term.This year’s candidates have prominently featured the promise to get the ball rolling on the matter in their platforms.The Dave Baron-Lizzi Shappell ticket attached a contingency to its plan for putting a student on the BOT, saying it will support the measure only if the BOT continues to allow the student government to give its tri-annual presentation to the Board’s Student Affairs Committee.”A student on the BOT is not worth losing the right of agenda,” says the ticket’s official Web site.In the most detailed of the stances, the Craig Brede-Vijay Ramanan ticket sets forth a specific plan for the position, allowing a student nominating committee to select three finalists from a group of Notre Dame sophomore, junior and senior applicants, and the BOT to ultimately choose the representative. The student would then serve a three-year term on the Board, with voting privileges only in their second and third years. The plan also stipulates that the “Young Trustee cannot hold a presidential position of any component of student government nor be employed by the University” during his term, according to the ticket’s Web site. Though not directly included in its list of long-term goals, the Mark Healy-Bob Costa ticket integrates the idea of a student Trustee into its platform by making it a priority in the first 30 days of its term to send a letter to the BOT supporting the creation of such a position. Citing the University’s biggest problem as a lack of communication between the administration and the student body, the James Leito-Jordan Bongiovanni ticket promises to advocate the addition of a student to the Board’s Student Affairs Committee – a body whose policy decisions directly affect the student population.While the Will Marra-Pete Harig and Alec White-Erik Powers tickets did not include the proposal as part of their written platform, both tickets commented on the issue during their interviews with The Observer Editorial Board.Marra and Harig said the idea was unreasonable, and outside of student government power to implement.White and Powers said that they shouldn’t just put a student on the BOT – they should get him a desk, chair and carpeting as well.Off-campus issuesIssues of off-campus security and student relations with the South Bend community were a key element of the past year’s developments, from the fall meetings between University officials and members of the South Bend city government to the Istvan, Bell and Baron October BOT report.Because of Baron’s ties to the current administration, the Baron-Shappell ticket plans on implementing an “OC Safety Seminar” and “OC Security Alert” for those students living off-campus, as well as creating a Student Senate Committee on Community Relations. The Brede-Ramanan ticket is focusing on increasing representation for off-campus students – an issue that arose last year when the election was decided by a Senate vote based on dorm breakdowns, during which the objection was raised that the 1,000-plus off-campus students had the same amount of representation as the approximately 100 students in Carroll. Brede and Ramanan want to add a second off-campus senator and president as representatives of specific housing regions. Healy-Costa’s two-part “WE ARE Campaign” encourages improved community relations through a monthly volunteer effort called “Campus-Community Clean-UP” and a push at the beginning of the fall semester to increase student patronage at local businesses and other venues. Though no specific representation plan is detailed, the Healy-Costa Web site promises that “Mark and Bob will fight for the rights and lifestyle of off-campus students.”The Leito-Bongiovanni ticket also calls for off-campus security alerts, promising to work through the Campus Life Council to make sure the system is running by the fall. Again, the Marra-Harig and White-Powers tickets did not include the proposal as part of their written platform, but both commented on the issue during their interviews with The Observer Editorial Board.Marra and Harig promised to continue the current administration’s SafeBus idea.White and Powers said their solution to off-campus problems was to “tell the neighbors to come over and have a beer.”Concert/speaker endowmentA headlining issue that is, at its core, about students wanting headliners to play on campus, the push for a concert and speaker endowment is the source of the most variety among candidate solutions.The original plan – discussed and proposed by former student body president Jeremy Lao in last year’s February and April BOT reports – called for a $1 million student programming endowment to be integrated into the University’s 10-year strategic plan. The endowment would generate about $50,000 a year to be used to fund big-ticket concerts and speakers normally too pricy for organizations’ budgets.The endowment was also a component to the Ebersol-Leito platform in 2004.The Baron-Shappell ticket hopes to expand on the initial $100,000 allotment with donations, and in the meantime would increase the Student Union Board concert budget and reach out to neighboring schools like Purdue and Northwestern to coordinate tours.In what they call a more “sensible” approach, Brede and Ramanan suggest limiting to use for speakers, reasoning that $50,000 is not likely to cover the costs for a big-ticket concert, but can attract high quality speakers. Healy and Costa recognize the importance of securing an endowment for the future, but want to act immediately to get big-name bands to campus. Costa, who gained national recognition for getting John Mayer to play for free at his high school’s prom, promises to use his connections to work toward securing artists like Maroon 5, Outkast, Pearl Jam, the Dave Matthews Band and U2 for shows on campus.The Leito-Bongiovanni ticket – also invoking the specter of U2 in their platform description – provides no specifics on their plan for the endowment, but criticize the current administration for failing to make progress on the effort and promise to make it a top priority if elected.This issue was not included in the written platforms of the Marra-Harig and White-Powers, and their positions come from interviews with The Observer Editorial Board.Marra and Harig said they are “all for the idea” of the endowment, and promised to pursue it to the best of their ability.White and Powers also supported the endowment, and said that extra money will help events like A Tostal improve.

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