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Remaining ND tickets debate platforms

Madeline Buckley | Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Grant Schmidt-Cynthia Weber ticket emphasized its experience and platform research while the Laura Burdick-Derek Sanchez ticket accused their opponents of recycling ideas from old campaigns in the run-off debate for student body president and vice president Wednesday night in LaFortune.

Schmidt, a junior, and Weber, a sophomore, along with juniors Burdick and Sanchez, advanced to compete in the run-off election after neither ticket won 50 percent of the vote in the general election Monday.

The debate, moderated by George Chamberlain, president of the Judicial Council, featured questions from the Council and the audience with a chance for the candidates to give a rebuttal.

Schmidt and Weber said they present a comprehensive and well-researched platform with feasible ideas.

“I think a lot of people have questioned our taxi reform,” Schmidt said. “But these are things I have been looking at for a really long time. We need to accomplish these big initiatives.”

In response to a question from the audience at the end of the meeting about Schmidt’s taxi reform plan, he said three out of the eight cab companies in South Bend have agreed to use his program of distributing booklets that would allow students to pay the cab fare with a coupon.

“These [cab companies] have safety and efficiency standards,” he said.

Burdick countered that many of the eight cab companies that are officially recognized by South Bend have independent drivers that will not accept the coupons.

“Over half the drivers in the cab companies work independently, and you think you can use the ticket, but they’ll say ‘I work independently,'” she said.

Schmidt also said both he and Weber bring experience to the roles, as Schmidt currently serves as student body vice president and Weber is the sophomore class president.

Burdick argued that as athletic co-chairs in the Hall Presidents Council, she and Sanchez have been part of many student groups, so they know what students want their leaders to accomplish.

“Derek and I feel that since we have been a part of all these student groups, we get a lot better feedback,” Burdick said.

Sanchez said the biggest strength of the Burdick-Sanchez ticket is originality, and he attacked Schmidt and Weber’s platform for “piggybacking old ideas.”

“It’s really easy to say you have a lot of research done when the ideas are old,” he said.

A question from the Judicial Council asked Burdick and Sanchez about the feasibility of their tuition reform plan.

Sanchez said he and Burdick have discussed tuition with Joseph Russo, director of Financial Aid at Notre Dame and researched a public service loan program. Additionally, he said they want to lower the Student Activities fee.

“Student Activity fees are something we can control,” he said. “The more they go up, the more they burden our families.”

In response, Schmidt said the Student Activities fee did not rise under his current administration with student body president Bob Reish. It is currently at about $95 and will not increase, he said.

Weber said she and Schmidt realize tuition is a significant issue for students, so they will push for textbook price reform.

“We can’t lower tuition but we can work at textbook prices and prices in the Huddle,” she said.

Burdick said textbook price reform was a platform idea presented last year in the Reish-Schmidt campaign, and pointed out that Schmidt and Weber can’t decrease prices in the Huddle, they will only be able to display them.

“If someone goes to the Huddle because they need pencils they are going to buy them regardless,” she said. “Having the price there doesn’t lower the price.”

Schmidt expanded on his textbook reform plan, explaining that student government would challenge the monopoly the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore has on the classroom materials by making the ISBN numbers public and presenting a cheaper alternative.

“The bookstore has exclusive rights, but instead of not being able to see the ISBN numbers, we would contact professors [for the numbers] and put them on a Web site,” Weber said. “Creating competition does subvert a monopoly.”

Sanchez attacked this idea, stating that it is unoriginal, and claiming that the Burdick-Sanchez ticket will bring originality to the office.

“I just want to emphasize that this plan was used last year and it didn’t happen,” he said. “While we’re talking about how easy this is and how feasible this is, you’ve had a year to do it and it’s still not done.”

Sanchez later stated only 19 of Schmidt’s approximately 55 platform ideas are new.

Responding to the continual attacks of unoriginality in his platform, Schmidt said continuity with the previous administration is necessary.

“There are a lot of things that will get carried over, and there are a lot of things that still need to get done,” he said.

Weber said a campaign platform is basically a plan for the year, so it makes sense to continue with the productive efforts of the old administration.

When asked what the candidates believe are the most important issues to the students, Schmidt and Weber said off-campus safety, while Burdick and Sanchez said continuing Notre Dame traditions such as the Dillon Pep Rally, Pig Tostal, Alumni Hall’s Wake Week and the Fisher Zoo, which are rumored to have been cancelled.

“We want to resurrect old events,” Burdick said.

Burdick said her administration will question University authorities about these cancelled traditions.

“As student advocates, we think it is our role to ask those questions and talk to those people,” Sanchez said.

Schmidt countered that the Fisher Zoo and Wake Week have not been cancelled, and Pig Tostal is off-campus and is not recognized by the University.

“Student government will never go to the administration saying, ‘Can we have an off-campus kegger?'” Weber said. “It’s not something we aim to touch.”

However, Schmidt said if they do get wind that Wake Week or the Fisher Zoo will be cancelled, they will ask the necessary questions.

“You better believe we will take action,” he said.

Schmidt and Weber were asked about the criticism they have received for being unapproachable.

Weber said she hopes they have not come across as unapproachable, but if they seem businesslike, it is because governing the student body is serious business.

However, Schmidt said that while they take the job seriously, they are regular college students too.

“We are normal students,” he said. “I’m from Dallas, Texas, she’s from Tennessee. I like baseball and she likes guitar.”

Students will vote in the run-off election between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday.