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Building resolution reviewed

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, November 3, 2005

Ideas regarding plans to expand or supplement the LaFortune Student Center – which many students complain is too cramped – swirled at Wednesday night’s Student Senate meeting.

The Residence Life committee, chaired by Mark Seiler, presented findings from meetings and senator-conducted focus groups, as well as a “Resolution in Support of a Discussion of an Expanded Student Center,” ultimately sent back to the committee for revision.

The issue surfaced after Vice President of Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman spoke to senators at the beginning of the semester about the University’s interest in and research on ways to improve residential life.

Zahm senator and Residence Life committee member Pat Knapp presented the findings, drawn primarily from student surveys conducted in the dorms.

“So far, the input has focused on the student body as a whole,” Knapp said. “What we’re doing now is airing out the ideas in front of all the student leaders, to get your feedback.”

Most students surveyed did not support renovating LaFortune, Knapp said, instead favoring “separated complimentary facilities.”

Students wanted to see this proposed additional student center somewhere on central campus, Knapp said.

He said nine of the 13 focus groups supported Crowley Hall as the best location.

“Crowley Hall’s existing office space and proximately to LaFortune are major advantages,” the committee’s preliminary report read. “Though Washington Hall was discussed as a possible location to expand student center services, there is a clear sentiment among the Notre Dame student body that Washington Hall is highly valued as performing arts space for student productions.”

While senators did not argue the concepts presented in the preliminary report, they responded with questions regarding its implementation.

“Is Crowley [Hall] up for grabs?” Morrissey senator Brian Klein asked.

Brian Coughlin, director of Student Activities, said the building would be available if the music department relocated.

“It’s like when they were building the [DeBartolo] Performing Arts Center,” Coughlin said, noting how different groups moved out of Washington Hall and left vacant space.

In response to Lewis senator Katie McHugh’s concern that Crowley might not be “big enough” – the report requested the addition of more than 15 meeting rooms and offices – Knapp said Crowley would be serving as an additional, not the only, student center.

And, he said, it’s hard to meet everyone’s demands.

“For the most part, we want it all,” Knapp said. “If we want it all, we probably won’t be bothered by using a separated complementary facility with Crowley.”

Other questions surfaced about the project’s timeframe – a point that did not concern student body president Dave Baron.

“We do, foot for foot, have much smaller space than [many peer institutions],” Baron said. “We are talking long term here. That’s okay.”

The report also recommended that Crowley Hall, if chosen as the site of the second center, be redesigned in LaFortune’s gothic architectural style.

In other Senate news:

Judicial Council president James Leito and vice president for Judicial Council’s Peer Advocacy program John Trippi addressed senators at the beginning of the meeting, asking them to hang posters publicizing the peer advocacy program in their dorms.

“We’re trying to spread the word … it’s a good resource for students,” Trippi said.

Peer Advocacy offers help to students facing Residence Life disciplinary conferences or hearings. While the program has been a part of the Student Constitution for a while, it is not widely known – something Judicial Council hopes to change this year.

“It’s a worthwhile program helping your fellow students,” Trippi said.

uBaron said student government was pursuing measures along with the Office of Residence Life and Housing and local landlords to help the six students involved in eviction proceedings from Turtle Creek Apartments find housing.

“So that’s a good sign the Notre Dame family is coming together to help these students,” Baron said.

He stressed that student government was “definitely not advocating that students break the law,” but would continue to assert its opposition to last summer’s amendment to the disorderly house ordinance, passed by the South Bend Common Council on July 25.

uEating Disorders Week will take place next week, Gender Relations committee chair Ali Wishon said.

“This is just huge,” Wishon said. “We’re starting out with our biggest event.”

Wishon was referring to “internationally recognized” media images expert Jean Kilbourne, who will speak at 7 p.m. Monday in DeBartolo.