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Students plan to honor, protest visit

Perry, Katie | Tuesday, March 1, 2005

President George W. Bush’s confirmed visit to South Bend has spurred a diverse mixture of chatter, ranging from speculation on the motivation of the trip to the anticipated campus response.According to a White House news release, Bush is slated to speak at Notre Dame Friday.Given the diversity of opinion on campus, student political groups and their respective members will receive Bush in starkly divergent ways. Ian Ronderos, co-president of the College Republicans, said the organization is eagerly anticipating Bush’s visit to the University.”We are very excited to see such an amazing man and leader come to visit our campus,” Ronderos said. “I am really excited about prospect of passing tax reform and social security reform. I hope that the president speaks on these issues.”According to Ronderos, the College Republicans are planning to attend the event itself in order to display their support for the president.Anthony Salpino, a freshman member of the College Republicans, has made plans to see Bush speak at the JACC.”I was pretty interested when I found out he was coming, but I was surprised at how little publicity he got,” Salpino said. “It was only mentioned briefly in one email from the College Republicans, and then I had to do a Google search to find out the president was actually coming.”While Salpino and other students will show their support for Bush and his stances, others have made preperations to protest the president’s appearance.Junior Jim Fobert, a member of the College Democrats and Progressive Student Alliance, altered his spring break travel plans upon receiving word of Bush’s visit to Notre Dame.”I was planning on leaving for spring break on Thursday evening, but when I found out [Monday] that he was coming here, I changed my mind,” Fobert said. “I will be here for his visit on Friday, most likely to protest.”Fobert and other students will have ample opportunity to voice their opposition to Bush as some on-campus groups plan to demonstrate upon the president’s arrival.According to co-president Nicola Bunick, the College Democrats are working together with a coalition of other campus groups – such as the Peace Coalition and the Progressive Student Alliance – in order to voice disapproval for Bush’s budget proposal and speak out about concerns regarding the proposed social security plan.”The President’s visit is a prime opportunity for us to generate dialogue on campus and in the South Bend community about some of the important issues at stake during this term,” Bunick said. “We want to ensure that all sides of the debate are adequately represented.”Faculty offered their own perspectives on Bush’s visit.Political science professor Peri Arnold said he believes the primary motivation of the speech is to garner support for the president’s reformed social security plan, which was first unveiled during Bush’s inaugural address last month.”Republican members of Congress are discovering a great deal of resistance among constituents to changes in social security that would include private accounts and large increases in the federal debt,” Arnold said. “Bush’s hope is to try to lend his more visible weight to this effort.”Rodney Hero, political science department chair, expects local political figures to accompany Bush as he pushes for his new plan.”I assume he’ll have Mitch Daniels and/or other local politicians appear with him, such as Governor [Mitch] Daniels, [Rep. Chris] Chocola, maybe [Michigan Rep.] Fred Upton,” Hero said.The White House has not confirmed whether or not local politicians will join the president Friday.According to Arnold, Bush’s motivation for possibly incorporating local congressional leaders like Chocola is to secure legislative backing. “Chocola has been up front as a supporter of social security privatization, but it may be that [Bush] is becoming more wary of his support, having discovered significant resistance among constituents,” Arnold said.Assistant professor of political science John Griffin said it is hard to discern whether the visit will be equally beneficial for Chocola and his own political status in the area.”Given Bush’s popularity in the region, it can only help Chocola,” Griffin said. “On the other hand, the next congressional election is nearly two years away, so any boost for Chocola will likely have dissipated by then. You also have to presume that in two years’ time that it will still be a good thing to be associated with the president, and a lot can happen in Iraq and in the economy over that long period.”While Chocola and other local Republican leaders are expected to greet Bush with a warm reception, the Notre Dame community’s response is not as clear.Hero said that Bush’s history with the University – in conjunction with an expected integration of Catholic ideals in his rhetoric – will likely lead to a cordial welcome.”My sense is ND has been seen as hospitable toward this president – he was the commencement speaker in May 2001,” Hero said. “He may be seeking to implicitly link some of his policies to ideas attractive to Catholics.”University spokesman Matt Storin said Monday that the president’s visit is not affiliated with Notre Dame.