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Leaders reflect as terms come to a close

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, March 31, 2005

For Adam Istvan, even the so-far stalled struggle against the dome’s scaffolding has its silver – or rather, golden – lining. Though it will bring him no joy as a senior at commencement, as outgoing student body president, he sees the situation surrounding the Main Building’s renovations as confirmation that he has fulfilled his campaign promise of restoring faith in student government and breaking down campus apathy.

“When seniors had a problem with [the dome scaffolding], they came right to student government to help and represent them,” Istvan said. “But when the alcohol policy was instituted a few years ago, there were unorganized, sporadic protests everywhere. I think this shows that the students are beginning to trust that we will work for them to get things done, and really, that’s huge.”

Intangible strides aside, Istvan, vice president Karla Bell and chief executive assistant Dave Baron can count the institution of the Huddle Video and Fair Trade coffee, decisive movement on the Teacher Course Evaluation issue, development of an off-campus safety seminar and sharpened focus on the issues of sexual assault, eating disorders and diversity as part of the progress made during their term.

Istvan said that excepting the SYR issue – which he said was clearly pushed off the table by vice president for Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman during a meeting before the term began – everything on the “to do” list he wrote on his first day in office had a check beside it.

Bell and Istvan refused to take sole credit for these projects, however, explaining that only this year’s student government, which they likened to a “family,” could have accomplished them.

“Everything we did this year was a joint effort by everyone in student government, from senators down to committee members whose names don’t usually get to be printed,” Bell said.

Tipping his hat specifically to the Student Senate and the Student Union Board, Istvan added that he felt all of the groups were more cohesive and professional this year than in the past. The focus on constructive discussion and action allowed stagnant projects to get back in motion, he said.

“When people say that student government can’t do anything, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Istvan said. “After three years of talking about getting DVDs in [LaFortune], we just decided to do it and got it done. After this term, we’re all starting to realize that [student government] has a lot more power than we thought, if you have the right motivation.”

Though unrealized plans like the ND Safebus – proposed during the October Board of Trustees Report and knocked off the radar shortly thereafter in part because of liability issues – dot their legacy, Istvan and Bell say they have no real regrets looking back at the past year.

“Sure, I wish we had been able to do more about the SafeBus, but we found a different option that will help students get to and from off-campus hot spots, even though the student government can’t officially endorse it,” Istvan said.

“We accomplished a lot of things,” he added. “When our term started, very few of the student government members were left over from the last year. Next year, over half of the senators will be working with the student government in some capacity. Would they stay involved if they didn’t know they could be productive?”

But the year was not without its struggles, as the pair worked to get a handle on the government structure revamped by a new constitution – a situation made more difficult by their lack of strong experience with student government coming into office.

“Personally, I didn’t always think I was capable of getting everything done I needed to get done, and was overwhelmed at first,” Bell said. “But you build up confidence after a while.”

Istvan, now a seasoned veteran, told incoming president Baron to remember to delegate – a technique he said that he and Bell had to learn the hard way.

“You eventually learn this job isn’t doing everything that needs to be done yourself, but making sure everything that needs to be done gets done,” Istvan said. “You also learn that if you want realize your goals, there are some things you just can’t compromise on.”