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Notre Dame to host college symposium

Madeline Buckley | Friday, March 27, 2009

Student government will host Notre Dame’s first-ever Intercollegiate Symposium – a conference between student government representatives from other Midwest universities – this weekend in LaFortune Student Center.

Modeled after the Ivy Council, an annual meeting between student government representatives from the eight Ivy League schools, the Intercollegiate Symposium was strongly emphasized by student body president Bob Reish during his campaign for the position in 2008 and will be one of the last initiatives he will lead before stepping down on April 1.

“[The symposium] is a way of reaching out to other campuses to see what their student governments have and don’t have,” Reish said.

He said he hopes the symposium will spark ideas for improving Notre Dame’s student government.

“We would be wasting our time and effort if we didn’t look at other universities,” Reish said.

Northwestern University, Purdue University, Vanderbilt University and Washington University in St. Louis are confirmed to attend the symposium.

“These schools are all close in distance and academic standing,” he said.

Reish said the representatives will arrive Friday, tour the campus and attend reception dinner at the Morris Inn.

On Saturday, the student government representatives will participate in three “breakout sessions” to discuss issues such as community relations, student government’s role in academic life, relationship with the administration and campus technology, Reish said.

Notre Dame’s representatives will be Reish, student body vice president Grant Schmidt, chief executive assistant Karen Koski, student body vice president-elect Cynthia Weber and Ryan Brellenthin, who will replace Koski as chief executive assistant on April 1.

“We are participating but not leading the discussion,” Reish said. “We want to see open dialogue.”

Reish said he considered the idea of a symposium during the controversy involving the party ordinance proposed by the South Bend Common Council in 2007 to control student parties. He said when looking into the issue, he found that Northwestern University had a similar problem.

“Had we had a line of communication with them, it could have helped us,” he said.

When elected to office in the spring of 2008, Reish said hosting the symposium was one of his first priorities.

“Last year, I wanted to have this in April to really set the tone of our term, collect ideas and get off the ground running,” he said.

However, issues with funds impeded the progress of the symposium, so the project was put on hold while Reish and Schmidt worked on other initiatives, he said.

Instead, Reish connected with other student body presidents through the creation of collegegovs.com, a Web site that allowed access only to student government leaders at colleges and universities.

But Reish said he was eventually able to secure the funds to put together the project and grab the interest of the universities who will attend.

“I have talked to everyone at the schools and they all said it is a great idea,” he said. “We are really laying a foundation and creating kind of a personal connection.”

Reish said he particularly would like to discuss the relationship between off-campus students and the community at the symposium, an issue Northwestern University stressed as important to them as well.

“This is something I really feel passionately about,” he said.

Reish said he hopes the symposium will not only help improve Notre Dame’s student government, but he also would like the event to foster a lasting relationship between the schools.

“We can ultimately develop a larger network,” he said. “I think this can be a benchmark of where we fit on a larger scale.”