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Senate reviews student government’s progress

Sarah Mervosh | Thursday, December 3, 2009

Student Senate evaluated student government’s progress this past semester and discussed suggestions for improvement for the remainder of the year at its meeting Wednesday.

“We’re where we should be right now. All of our initiatives are in progress. They are making progress,” student body vice president Cynthia Weber said.

Weber said this year’s administration strived to pay attention to smaller details about student life and make time to address them.

“The little things matter, and having times during our regular meetings to talk about the little things,” she said. “To follow up on those things or to use our existing relationships to get that stuff accomplished.”

Student body president Grant Schmidt said, “If you ask what is the function of student government, it’s to respond to the issues of the voice of the student body.

“I don’t think there has been an issue on campus that we haven’t discussed in [Senate] or you haven’t discussed in your committee,” he said. “Whether it’s the little things such as the light between Siegfried and Knott, or the big things such as Transpo.”

Weber also said this administration worked to become a focus group to represent the student body. Student government should have an idea of the student body’s opinions and then form an educational, academic opinion on University issues, she said.

“When something happens on campus, something like the Commencement decision last semester or the change in the economics department,” Weber said. “The idea that student government is educated on it and that we have a pulse of what student opinion is and that we have an educated opinion about it.”

Weber said another goal of this administration was to increase the collaboration between student government and local South Bend leadership. Examples of this were community meetings to promote safe neighborhoods and the Transpo initiative, she said.

The final goal of student government was to increase its social consciousness of its role in the country and the world, Weber said.

“As leaders of the student union, of the student body of Notre Dame, to encourage collaborative efforts to promote Notre Dame’s impact on the world and that’s exactly what the Global Water Initiative is designed to do this year, and the precedent that it’s designed to set,” she said.

Schmidt said it was important for senators and members of student government to know what they are working to accomplish.

“You should be clear why you come here every Wednesday night and I’m hoping these are the four main reasons,” he said.

University Affairs chair Jeff Lakusta said he was impressed by this administration’s willingness to take on larger issues and make an impact globally.

“Throughout the first three years that I was here, people tended to turn down big ideas just because it was too big,” he said. “Under this administration it’s been cool because we are not afraid to go after those bigger issues.

“We can have an impact on global water problems. I just think that’s a cool thing to realize,” he said.

Senators also discussed room for improvement for second semester.

Bradley McDonald of O’Neill Hall said pep rallies should be a priority next semester.

“It seems like the biggest issue this year revolved around pep rallies and I think that obviously needs to be addressed and the sooner the better, so next semester is prime time,” he said.

Matt LaFortune, who will replace the current Alumni Hall senator next semester, suggested holding a pep rally for the blue and gold game to welcome the new coach and set the tone for the next season.

Taylor Ruby Gagan of Pasquerilla East Hall said Senate could open up communication with the student body by holding a town hall style meeting.

Weber said it may be possible to open the Schmidt’s state of the student union address up to the student body.

“The state of the student union address is mandatory in the constitution but it doesn’t necessarily have to happen in the context of Senate. We could open it up,” she said.

Senators also filled out forms evaluating student government this year, and these forms were submitted anonymously to Schmidt and Weber at the end of the meeting.