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Group commends University

Claire Reising | Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Student Senate applauded the University’s increased attention to environmental issues in a unanimously passed resolution at their meeting Wednesday.

In the past year, Notre Dame raised its grade from a D- to a C on the College Sustainability Report Card, the resolution stated.

According to the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s Web site, the College Sustainability Report Card evaluates the sustainability of United States universities with the nation’s top 200 endowments.

The Senate’s resolution listed some efforts Notre Dame took to increase campus sustainability, such as decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, serving some locally grown food products and strengthening its recycling program.

With these initiatives, the University was one of 13 universities to improve by a full letter grade on the report card.

“I thought it was appropriate to commend them for what they’ve done and encourage them to do more,” said Fisher senator Stephen Bant, who drafted the resolution.

The senators also discussed another resolution supporting an increase in off-campus senators, which failed after debate over the effectiveness of having more off-campus representation and the resolution’s statement that there should be one male and one female off-campus senator.

Keenan senator Gus Gari, drafted the resolution, said an increase in off-campus senators would improve communication between student government and off-campus residents, who constitute about 20 percent of the student body.

If passed, the resolution potentially would have led to an amendment of the Student Body Constitution, increasing the off-campus membership from one to two senators.

Gari said that if the off-campus students were proportionally represented in the Senate, they would require four senators. However, dorms currently do not have proportional representation in the Senate, so he recommended one male and one female senator to address both genders’ off-campus issues.

“Since it’s the only coed constituency … you can say that because the women off-campus didn’t have a female representative, a lot of their issues weren’t really well represented this year,” Gari said. “In that case, they have been disenfranchised in some way.”

Some senators disagreed with the resolution’s recommendation, saying it would lead to unfair elections when unequal numbers of male and female senators run for office.

“It’s an elected official,” Dillon senator Jim Murphy said. “I’m worried about appointments or forcing someone in due to the fact that there’s a lack of, not necessarily interest, but just one year, nobody from one gender running.”

Sorin senator George Chamberlain proposed to amend the resolution and remove the requirement to have both genders represented.

Other senators disagreed.

“There are already more boys’ dorms than girls’ dorms,” Pangborn senator Denise Barons aid. “With the addition of Duncan, there [will be] two more boys’ dorms than girls’ dorms. I think that there’s an effort, a precedent within senate to keep a gender balance.”

Besides the gender issue, senators debated the necessity of an additional off-campus member. “As the off-campus senator, I don’t really see a need for this,” senior Andrew Troia said. “The problem is not so much communication, just that most of what we do in Senate is geared towards the undergraduates living on campus.”

Additionally, off-campus senators do not have as many resources to relay campus news to other students, such as Hall Council meetings or posters in the dorms.

“I’m just worried about what foreseeable change it will produce. Being off campus, there’s no group meeting at Turtle Creek [or] Hall Council,” Murphy said. “I just don’t know if more is necessarily better.”

Even though off-campus students may have less access to campus news and events, student body president Liz Brown, who lives off campus, said some students still like to remain involved with the Notre Dame community.

“I don’t think you’re moving off-campus with the [intention] to get disconnected,” she said. “I think that there is definitely a disconnect in communication.”

In other Senate news:

uThe Senate passed a resolution amending the Student Body Constitution. This amendment stated that the Student Body President will nominate Senate Committee Chairs, and two-thirds of the Senate must approve the nominations.

uFaculty Senate liaison Professor Thomas Noble said the Faculty Senate passed a resolution supporting clocks in all classrooms. This resolution will be implemented, since a previous Student Senate resolution also supported the issue.

uThe next student-faculty debate will address global warming, according to Callie Pogge, chair of the University Affairs Committee. It will take place next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Dooley Room of LaFortune.

uAcademic Affairs Committee chair Carol Hendrickson said her committee discussed the future use of online teacher-course evaluations, which will allow students to read others’ comments about their classes.