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Members pass Native American resolution passes

Mary Kate Malone | Thursday, November 2, 2006

The Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday that, if implemented, will provide more resources for Native American students – a group making up less than one percent of the University’s student body.

Six Native American students sat behind Minority Affairs committee chair Destinee DeLemos as she presented her committee’s resolution, which called for:

u Academic departments to make seats available for non-majors in courses that examine the history and culture of Native Americans. There are currently four such classes, all under the American Studies Department.

u Academic departments to explore the possibility of creating a modern Native American issues course.

u The Office of the President to appoint a permanent member of the faculty or staff to serve as an “official advisor” to Native American students.

u Campus literature and public addresses to “render” a greater sensitivity toward the Native Americans who previously inhabited the University area.

u The student body to stand behind the inclusion of all Native American students in “all spheres of the Notre Dame experience.”

When Social Concerns committee chair Sheena Plamoottil asked about the experiences of Native American students at Notre Dame, senior Nikki Williams, of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe in Nevada, described her experience.

“For me, coming here as a Native American person and not having any other Native American people to share my experiences with … it was disheartening and really, really lonely,” she said.

Though the resolution passed with no opposing votes, some senators had reservations about certain provisions, such as the demand that seats be opened for non-majors in classes that study Native American history and culture.

“If we do this, we should open up courses for African American [studies], studies of the Holocaust … to any group that has been disadvantaged,” said Dillon Hall senator Tyler Langdon, who added that he “completely” agreed with the resolution, except for the part that called for special access to Native American classes.

But DeLemos insisted that increasing access to Native American classes was imperative for a minority group with such few resources on campus.

“I think it’s the minimum that can be done right now,” DeLemos said.

In support of the clause, other senators noted that it reflects another Senate initiative from last year that calls for course requirements at Notre Dame to include classes that promote cultural competency.

DeLemos’ committee has worked on that initiative since the start of the school year.

Senators then voted to not strike the clause from the resolution.

Fisher Hall senator Drew Clary had concerns about the wording of the resolution, saying that its emphasis on Catholic Social Teaching sends a “subliminal message” that those who vote against it are “voting against Catholic Social Teaching.”

But Clary’s comments were quickly addressed by student body president Lizzi Shappell who said the reference to Catholic Social Teaching was and should be “an integral part” of the resolution.

“I think this [resolution] lives up exactly to Catholic Social Teaching and if we don’t acknowledge that then we’re not recognizing what this University is based on,” Shappell said.

In other business:

u Senators unanimously passed a resolution that supports the renewal of an existing contract that allows Holy Cross students to have access to the Rockne Memorial Athletic Facility.

In 2001, then-University President Father Edward “Monk” Malloy renewed a contract that gave Holy Cross students access to the Rock while a new Holy Cross athletic facility was being built.

That contract expires at the end of 2006, but Holy Cross’s new athletic facility will not be complete by then, said University Affairs committee chair Aly Baumgartner.

u Shappell, Plamoottil, student body vice president Bill Andrichik and chief executive assistant Liz Brown met with Director of Food Services Dave Prentkowski to discuss a recent Senate resolution that called for Food Services to only use Fair Trade coffee in all of its non-franchised operations.

Prentkowski has created a task force to address the issue, Plamoottil said, and Plamoottil will “keep the lines of communication open” as the Food Services and student government continue to work on implementing the goals of the resolution.

u Andrichik announced that senior Notre Dame students will now have access to Irish Online, an online directory of contact information for more than 100,000 Notre Dame alumni. More details will be released in a press release today, he said.