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Tickets vie for student leadership

Maddie Hanna and Karen Langley | Monday, February 6, 2006

Apart from a shared focus on community relations, this year’s candidates for Notre Dame student body president and vice president vary greatly in experience, goals and age.

One ticket is led by current student body vice president Lizzi Shappell. Another is headed by Jason Laws, a member of the 2004-05 national championship fencing team. Another two are completely comprised of freshmen – and the fifth is split between a sophomore and freshman, bringing the total number of freshmen in the race to five.

The pair boasting the most student government experience is Shappell and junior class president Bill Andrichik, both juniors.

Given their ties to the current administration, led by student body president Dave Baron, Shappell said continuing to pursue this year’s student government initiatives is “to be expected.”

“Obviously, we have some continuity,” Shappell said. “The ordinance issue, we think that’s huge … it will be at the forefront [of our administration].”

In light of student evictions from Turtle Creek Apartments after last summer’s passage of the disorderly house ordinance by the South Bend Common Council, community relations has been a focus of Baron’s presidency. Shappell and Andrichik promise to pick up where the current administration leaves off, building partnerships with the Notre Dame Law School to arrange legal aid clinics, a telephone hotline and office hours as resources to help off-campus students.

Less weighty plans include pushing the spring semester move-out day from Saturday to Sunday and adding items to the Grab-and-Go system, such as ramen noodles and popcorn.

Shappell and Andrichik have been heavily involved in student government since freshman year, when Shappell served on the Service and Spirituality Committee for then-student body president Emily Chin and Andrichik was the Stanford Freshman Class Council representative and Freshman Class Treasurer.

Sophomore year, Shappell was the Badin senator and chair of the Senate Gender Issues committee, as well as Sophomore Class Council representative and campaign manager for Andrichik, who was elected Sophomore Class President.

Both Shappell and Andrichik play a variety of interhall sports – “Part of the reason Bill and I work so well together is we play co-rec football together,” Shappell said – and are involved in the spiritual life of their dorms.

“We’re going in there knowing it takes a proactive approach,” Shappell said. “There will be issues we won’t foresee [to handle].”

Laws, a junior, and sophomore Bob Costa have also made community relations a platform priority. But they focus on the need for student government to fully reflect the student voice.

“We want to reach all sectors of the student body who are not involved in the student government dialogue,” Costa said.

They plan to work to gather student views on academic freedom and other controversial campus issues.

“A lot of students feel because we’re a private university, the administration can do whatever they want,” Laws said. “We respect the administration, but our job is to represent the student voice.”

Other ideas for measuring student opinions include “Stick-it-to-Jenkins,” in which life-size posters of University President Father John Jenkins will be available in numerous campus locations for students to attach Post-it notes with their comments and concerns.

Laws and Costa intend to focus on diversity issues by making the Senate Minority Affairs committee permanent and creating a Black Student Union. The latter will serve as a test case for creating similar unions for other groups.

“We want to make sure to include all student groups,” Laws said. “Other minorities are also underrepresented.”

Their platform goals also include creating a speaker’s bureau of alumni, increasing student government presence at South Bend town council meetings, and creating student employment opportunities through extending dining hours at North Dining Hall.

Laws has extensive student government experience, serving as Freshman and Sophomore Class president. He was a varsity fencer from his sophomore year through last semester and has also been active in the Center for Social Concerns.

Costa volunteers regularly at the South Bend Center for the Homeless. He is an active member of the Student Union Board, the Baron administration’s communications department and NDTV.

Laws addressed a larger collegiate audience when he appeared on MTV’s “Next” last week.

“Sadly, I didn’t find true love,” he said.

Ryan Black and Catherine Martinez are one of the two tickets composed solely of freshmen. The pair described their platform as focused on four aspects of campus life: community relations, gender relations, diversity and student affairs.

Black and Martinez want to institute an athlete-mentoring program which would pair varsity athletes with local children.

“We want to be the role model,” Martinez said. “We want the adults of the community to know we are looking out for the kids.”

To counter widely-perceived problems with gender relations, the pair has proposed an after-parietals lock-in with food and games at a venue like the Joyce Center.

“There are too many forums and discussions,” Black said. “We want to take action.”

Neither candidate has participated in campus-wide student government to date, but they have been active throughout their freshman year. Black has been involved in Circle K, interhall hockey and dorm life in Knott Hall. As a high school freshman in Dallas, Texas, he organized a program in which students fed the homeless once a week that is still running.

Martinez has been involved in the Spanish Club and the Pre-Law Society and is currently working to establish a chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Club, a Catholic service group, on campus. She was a high school cheerleader and continues to have an interest in the sport.

“Our fresh perspective gives us an advantage over everyone else,” Black said. “[The current student government administration] is one dynasty … A breath of fresh air will be great for student government.”

Sophomore Erica Wells and freshman George Chamberlain are similar to Black and Martinez in level of involvement – no Notre Dame student government experience, but plenty of campus activities – and scope of ideas.

The pair stresses multicultural relations – “it’s constantly a topic for discussion,” Wells said – and plans to speak with Director of Multicultural Student Programs Iris Outlaw and Director of Cross-Cultural Ministry Chandra Johnson to explore possibilities “to make a tangible difference.”

Wells, who works as a Peer Educator in the Gender Relations Center, said improving gender relations would be a focus of her and Chamberlain’s campaign.

Like Laws and Costa, Wells and Chamberlain – a Peer Mentor, Circle K member and Safe Walker – emphasized the importance of the student voice, vowing to involve more members of the student body in student government and to initiate “open forums” on any issue students want to discuss.

They said they see their campaign as a duty to the school and its students.

“I’ve always had an extensive background in service and I feel that’s what leadership revolves around,” Chamberlain said.

“I don’t think it’s about the politics, I just want to make a difference,” Wells said.

The second pair of freshmen candidates, Zahm residents Ryan McCune and Tim Szewczyk, are big on humor but short on practical ideas.

The pair’s platform can be summarized as “Drinking is awesome, and I want to be awesome too,” said Szewczyk, who then contemplated the possibility of making a neon sign to flash the slogan.

They would also like to renovate Rockne Memorial, building a Nickelodeon Global Guts-style Agro-Crag.

Neither candidate has any Notre Dame student government experience, but McCune serves as the assistant coach of the Zahm “Fear” interhall hockey team.

Szewczyk said he was the “assistant to the assistant coach” and said, “Take that as you will.”